Problem Identification: The impact of mental health disorders (MHDs) and substance use disorders (SUDs) on healthcare utilization (HCU) in patients with cancer is an understudied phenomenon.
Literature Search: A literature search of studies published prior to January 2018 that examined HCU in patients with preexisting MHDs or SUDs diagnosed with cancer was conducted.
Data Evaluation: The research team evaluated 22 studies for scientific rigor and examined significant trends in HCU, as well as types of the MHD, SUD, and cancer studied.
Synthesis: The heterogeneity of HCU outcome measures, MHD, SUD, sample sizes, and study settings contributed to inconsistent study findings. However, study trends indicated higher rates of HCU by patients with depression and lower rates of HCU by patients with schizophrenia. In addition, the concept of HCU measures is evolving, addressing not only volume of health services, but also healthcare quality and efficacy.
Implications for Research: Oncology nurses are essential to improving HCU in patients with MHDs and SUDs because of their close connections with patients throughout multiple stages of cancer care. Additional prospective studies driven by nurse researchers are needed to examine specific MHDs and different types of SUDs beyond alcohol use, improving cancer care and the effectiveness of HCU in this vulnerable population.