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Cancer Pract. 1996 Nov-Dec;4(6):319-23.

Telephone help line for cancer counseling and cancer information.

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Department of Gynecological Oncology, University Hospital Uppsala, Sweden.



A telephone help line for providing cancer counseling and information was started in 1990 at the University Hospital of Uppsala, Sweden. The current study aimed to assess the experience of the telephone help line after 3 years of operation and to compare the results with telephone services in other countries.


For each telephone call, a standard report form was completed and a short narrative description of the caller's concerns was written.


During the first 3 years, 735 calls were registered. Most of the calls were made by next of kin (30%) and patients (28%). Most (77%) of callers were women. The issues addressed were mainly medical or psychosocial. The medical questions were, in most cases, related to a patient's illness or treatment. The psychosocial questions dealt with the caller's (patient or next of kin) own anxiety, and these calls developed into supportive dialogues. Patients made more medical inquiries than next of kin, whereas family members were more concerned with psychosocial questions (P < 0.01). Questions relating to breast cancer accounted for a great part of the calls from patients (34%), but significantly less from the relatives (10%; P < 0.0001), whereas the opposite was true for colorectal adenocarcinomas (P < 0.01). These findings are discussed together with cultural differences between Sweden and other countries, particularly the United States.


The telephone help line can supply information to patients, next of kin, and the general public on their own premises. Another important task is to function as a link between people with symptoms and appropriate health service.

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