PURPOSE: The aim of this study is to systematically review evidence with regard to answering the following questions: (1) What are the unmet care needs of older persons diagnosed with cancer who are undergoing active cancer treatment? (2) What are the predictors of unmet needs of older persons while undergoing active cancer treatment? METHODS: A systematic review of the literature published between January 1996 and December 2010 was completed. Manuscripts could be published in English, French, Dutch, or German searching the Medline, Embase, Psychinfo, Cinahl, and the Cochrane Library databases. The literature search was performed by two researchers with the assistance of a university librarian. Abstracts were reviewed by two reviewers for inclusion. RESULTS: Thirty studies were included. A significant proportion of newly-diagnosed patients undergoing cancer treatment had unmet needs, ranging from 15 to 93%. The most common needs varied by study but included psychological needs, information needs, and needs in the physical domain. Most studies showed that the level of unmet needs was highest after diagnosis and start of treatment and decreased over time. Predictors of unmet needs included: younger age, female gender, depression, physical symptoms, marital status, treatment type, income, and education. CONCLUSIONS: The level of unmet needs in newly diagnosed older cancer patients after the start of treatment is high, and the most common needs are psychological and information needs. More research is needed which would focus on the needs of older adults with comorbid conditions, and how these comorbid conditions influence the level of unmet needs.
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