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Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Dec;85(3):e229-36. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.03.022. Epub 2011 May 4.

Education level, not health literacy, associated with information needs for patients with cancer.

Author information

  • 1Department of Social & Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA. Rmatsuyama@vcu.edu



Cancer patients receiving adjuvant therapy encounter increasingly complex situations and decisions with each new procedure and therapy. To make informed decisions about care, they need to be able to access, process, and understand information. Individuals with limited health literacy may not be able to obtain or understand important information about their cancer and treatment. The rate of low health literacy has been shown to be higher among African Americans than among non-Hispanic Whites. This study examined the associations between race, health literacy, and self-reported needs for information about disease, diagnostic tests, treatments, physical care, and psychosocial resources.


Measures assessing information needs were administered to 138 newly diagnosed cancer patients. Demographics were assessed by survey and health literacy was assessed with two commonly used measures: the Rapid Estimate Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM) and the Short Test of Health Literacy in Adults (STOFHLA).


Study findings indicate that educational attainment, rather than health literacy, is a significant predictor of information needs.


Overcoming barriers to information needs may be less dependent on literacy considerations and more dependent on issues that divide across levels of educational attainment.


Oncologists and hospital staff should be attentive to the fact that many patients require additional assistance to meet their information needs.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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