Differences in information seeking among breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer patients: Results from a population-based survey

Rebekah H. Nagler, Stacy W. Gray, Anca Romantan, Bridget J. Kelly, Angela DeMichele, Katrina Armstrong, J. Sanford Schwartz, Robert C. Hornik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Objective: There is much research describing cancer patients' information needs and their use of the Internet, print media, and other sources to fulfill these needs. Yet little is known about whether patients with different types of cancer vary in their information needs and seeking behaviors. This study used population-based data to address this question. Methods: A sample was randomly drawn from the list of patients with breast, prostate, or colorectal cancer reported to the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry in 2005. Patients completed a mail survey (N=2010); respective response rates were 68%, 64%, and 61%. Results: Colorectal cancer patients reported consistently less information seeking than breast and prostate cancer patients. Multivariate analyses revealed that differences by cancer type were not explained by sex or other demographics, disease stage, or treatment received. These differences were most pronounced among patients with early stage cancer. Conclusion: Cancer patients have myriad information needs and use a range of sources to satisfy these needs, but there appear to be important differences in information engagement by cancer type. Practice implications: Understanding differences in information seeking among disease-specific populations may help guide future patient education and decision making across the care continuum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S54-S62
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge the funding support of the National Cancer Institute's Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication (CECCR) located at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania (P50-CA095856-05). This publication's contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Cancer Institute.


  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Information needs
  • Information seeking
  • Prostate cancer


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