Short Communication

Evaluating a centralised cancer support centre in the remote region of Northern Norway


Bente Ervik 1 PhD, Head of Regional Advisory Unit for Palliative Care *

Sigve Andersen2 PhD, Associate Professor

Helge Skirbekk3 PhD, Associate Professor

Tom Donnem4 PhD, Professor


1 Department of Oncology, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway

2, 4 Department of Oncology, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway; and Institute of Clinical Medicine, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

3 Department of Health Management and Health Economics, Institute of Health and Society, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

ACCEPTED: 31 July 2020

early abstract:

Introduction: Being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment is a life changing experience, and many cancer patients find the physical, emotional, and social effects of the disease to be stressful. This study explores the experiences of cancer patients and their relatives from all parts of Northern Norway visiting the centralized cancer support centre.
Methods: In a comprehensive prospective survey, 286 visitors were invited to participate and 181 accepted. The characteristics of the participants, their expectations for visiting the centre, whether they wanted to meet peers or volunteers rather than clinicians and how they viewed the centre in the context of cancer care were evaluated.
Results: Most satisfied were visitors < 50 years, women and those reporting a “strong social network”. The majority of the visitors wanted to have better access to peers (with a similar cancer diagnosis) (89%), cancer nurses (75%) or oncologists (71%). About one-third of the participants (29.8%) lived in communities with < 5000 inhabitants and 59.4% in municipalities with < 15 inhabitants/km2. There were no significant differences in the characteristics of the participants, or in their evaluation of the support centre, when stratified by number of inhabitants or population density in their home community.
Conclusion: The cancer support centre was highly valued by patients and their relatives for meeting peers. The centre was most frequently visited by and most popular among women and those self-reporting strong social networks. Access to oncology doctors and nurses in this setting could be valuable. Participants living in remote areas had similar characteristics and evaluated the support centre similarly to those living in more urban areas.