Survey on cancer care in Switzerland: Good Ratings – But Some Work To Do

Save Print

19.05.2022 07:42 Europe/Zurich

Go to all press releases

In collaboration with the research institute gfs.bern, MSD Switzerland has conducted the first ever representative survey of the population on the quality of cancer care in Switzerland. On the one hand, the survey found that the care situation is assessed as being good to very good – especially by cancer sufferers themselves. On the other hand, there is a definite need for action in the areas of prevention, early detection as well as psychological care during and after the disease.   

Swiss citizens take a keen interest in the nation’s health policy. According to the new survey, 80 percent of the population are interested in health issues. Some 1,500 people from all over Switzerland participated in the representative survey commissioned by MSD and conducted for the first time by gfs.bern. Its key finding was that the quality of care for cancer patients is considered good or very good by almost 90 percent of the population.

Good to very good ratings for cancer care

Over 40,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in Switzerland every year. At the same time, fewer people are dying from malignant tumours than in the past1. In other words, there are more and more people in Switzerland who are living with cancer or have overcome the disease. In the present survey, 95 percent of those affected by cancer themselves rated their care situation as good, very good or excellent – and thus even better than the other respondents. The main reasons for this are the good healthcare system in Switzerland, the wide range of services, the good care provided by staff, the quality of facilities, access to treatment and the unproblematic exchange of information. For instance, the medical and nursing care in hospitals is rated positively among the entirety of respondents (around 80%), and a large majority is also satisfied with the drug therapy provided. Only a few respondents criticised the therapies or the quality of care.

The cancer sufferers themselves assign the greatest importance to the support of relatives and to specialists (84% each). Hospital care (78%), general practitioners (70%) and health insurance companies (66%) are also very important for patients in terms of care and information, followed by conversations with other patients (47%), the Swiss Cancer League (34%), psychologists (31%), Spitex (29%), psychiatrists (23%), self-help organisations (22%) and patient organisations (19%).

The enormous amount of effort that goes into researching tumour diseases is also appreciated by Swiss citizens. In the survey, for example, a clear majority of 57 percent believe that good progress has been made in cancer research in the last five years; only a quarter of all participants believe that there have been no or hardly any new scientific findings in the recent past. More than half of the respondents are also optimistic that tumour diseases will be completely curable in the future.

Room for improvement in cancer prevention, early diagnosis, and aftercare

Nevertheless, the survey also reveals clearly that on closer inspection there is still a definite need for action. Among all respondents, about 15 percent each were dissatisfied with early cancer detection and cancer prevention. Almost a quarter would also welcome better psychological support. Among those actually suffering from cancer, 47 percent would have been glad if their tumour had been discovered earlier. In addition, 36 percent would have liked to be given prevention information earlier. Many have to deal with physical, psychological and economic consequences for years to come. Thus 46 percent of those currently ill are suffering from the physical consequences and about one-third from a reduced quality of life. Even among former sufferers, the loss of quality of life and the psychological consequences are still felt by 25 to 30 percent. And yet the next of kin struggle with such repercussions even more than the patients themselves: 10 percent have the dramatic feeling that the cancer has destroyed their lives. Of those currently dealing with cancer or who have previously had it, more than half consider it the most defining event in their lives, but 24 percent believe that the disease has given them a “second chance at life”.

Through this extensive survey of the population, a representative picture of the quality of care for cancer patients in Switzerland was obtained for the first time. On the one hand, it brought out the very high acceptance of the current care provision, but on the other, it allowed weaknesses to be identified in areas such as prevention, early detection and psychological care.


  1. Swiss Cancer Report 2021

The survey

For the representative survey on cancer patient care commissioned by MSD and conducted by gfs.bern, 1,510 randomly selected people throughout Switzerland were surveyed in detail by online questionnaire or telephone interview at the end of last year (November/December 2021). Three-quarters of the respondents stated that a person close to them or at least someone they know had been or was currently affected by cancer. A total of eleven percent (136 people) had personal experience with cancer themselves, and three percent were suffering from cancer at the time of the survey. The patients had undergone surgery (76%), chemotherapy (32%), radiotherapy (29%), targeted therapy (18%), hormone therapy (15%), alternative therapy (14%) or immunotherapy (11%).

Research institute gfs.bern

The research institute gfs.bern ag, which has overall responsibility for the survey, has an extremely long track record in empirical social research. Founded in 1959 as the Society for the Promotion of Empirical Social Research in Switzerland (GfS), it has been conducting socio-empirical research with a focus on political and communication research since 1986 as a separate division of GfS-Forschungsinstitut AG and since 2004 under its own name gfs.bern ag.

gfs.bern sees itself as a methodological full-service provider with proven specialities in relation to content. With respect to its market presence, the company aspires to quality leadership in the field of applied social research (specifically survey research with face-to-face, telephone, online and written interviews), and has successfully maintained this lead in the analysis of political opinion-forming processes for some 20 years. gfs.bern has played a key role in shaping empirical social research on socio-political and direct-democratic decision-making processes in Switzerland. gfs.bern also has many years’ experience in monitoring political and policy processes. Current teaching assignments at the Universities of Zurich, Berne, and Fribourg as well as at various universities of applied sciences help the company to make the knowledge thus gained available in education and to regularly engage in scientific reflection on their own work. For further information, see

Media contact gfs.bern

Lukas Golder

Co-Director gfs.bern


MSD Merck Sharp & Dohme in Switzerland

In Switzerland, MSD employs around 1,000 people at five locations in the cantons of Lucerne and Zurich. At our premises in Zurich, in “The Circle”, we operate the newly opened global innovation and development hub. Our main therapeutic areas are oncology, infectious diseases, immunology and diabetes. We also have a broad portfolio of vaccines for the prevention of diseases in children, adolescents and adults. MSD has one of the largest clinical research programmes, and Switzerland participates with more than 30 clinical trials annually. At our site in Schachen, we manufacture medicines for global clinical trials and operate a forensic laboratory. MSD also assumes local responsibility for the community and has been involved for years in the “Trend Days Health Lucerne” and in the Alliance for Health Literacy, among other things. In 2022, MSD received the “Top Employer Switzerland” award for the tenth time in a row. For more information, please visit us at, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.

Media contact MSD Switzerland                                                     

Dr. phil. Caroline Hobi

Associate Director – Policy & Communications 

Go to all press releases