Optional banner to alert visitors of an upcoming event. You can link the event here.

A cancer diagnosis can have a significant impact on an individual’s life. Cancer can affect emotional, practical, financial and spiritual aspects of daily life and can have an impact on an individual’s roles at home, work and school. This module explores
how primary care professionals can support those individuals at different stages of their cancer experience.

Click on the cards below to explore these needs.

Drag the sliders below to explore more unmet needs statistics

Figures are taken from Macmillan Cancer Support’s 2015 study Hidden at home – The social care needs of people with cancer.

The role of primary care

As primary care professionals, it is important to provide patients with the best level of care and support throughout their cancer journey. Effective communication is vital to identify patients’ needs in order to provide suitable care and support. Effective communication includes:

  • Listening and assessing a patient’s concerns and understanding
  • Acknowledging needs and concerns
  • Assessing and responding to emotional needs
  • Giving clear explanations
  • Providing time for patients to process information
  • Preparing patients during each stage by explaining what they can expect
  • Explaining all the ways that you can offer support
  • Planning next steps with patients


Alongside effective communication, primary care professionals can support cancer patients by addressing the three elements below with patients.

Emotional wellbeing


Social wellbeing
(e.g. relationships, financial, employment)

Physical wellbeing
(e.g. comorbidities, pain)

  • Actively listen and acknowledge patients’ concerns and experience
  • Explore the impact of concerns and review coping strategies
  • Proactively ask about their emotions when giving bad news or hearing about bad news experiences
  • Observe and acknowledge any changes in body language/behaviour
  • Invite the patient to talk about them
  • Signpost/refer patients to relevant support services

Ask patients about the impact on the factors below and signpost patients to relevant services if necessary:

  • Family members and partners
  • Friends and social activities
  • Looking after dependents
  • Finances
  • Employment
  • Household tasks
  • Ask questions to elicit any symptoms/concerns (e.g. side effects of treatments)
  • Explore impact on daily living
  • Treat any presenting symptoms
  • Provide treatment advice
  • Alter medication if appropriate
  • Signpost/refer patients to relevant services (e.g. prehab)

Throughout the course, we will cover each of these support elements ( ) to indicate how primary care professionals can offer support. This will be done through a fictional case study of a patient and will cover ways in which support can be given at each stage of their cancer pathway.

Additional resources

Link: The social cure of social prescribing: a mixed-methods study on the benefits of social connectedness on quality and effectiveness of care provision, BMJ Open (2019)
Link: Understanding social care needs, Macmillan Cancer Support (2015)
Link: Hidden at home – The social care needs of people with cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support (2015)
Link: The significant unmet needs of cancer patients: probing psychosocial concerns, Support Care Cancer 9 (2001)

NEW: GPs Talk Cancer podcast. Listen to our first episode.