BACKGROUND: Family members of cancer patient's have multiple needs, many of which are not adequately met. Unmet needs may affect psychological distress and quality of life (QOL). The purpose of this study was to assess needs and unmet needs, QOL, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the relationship between those variables in a large sample of family members of cancer patients in different phases of illness. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Of 332 family members invited to participate, 330 accepted and 223 (67%) completed a cross-sectional, descriptive study. Data was collected with the Family Inventory of Needs (FIN), Quality of Life Scale (QOLS) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). RESULTS: Of 20 needs assessed the mean (SD) number of important needs and unmet needs was 16.4 ± 4.3 and 6.2 ± 5.6, respectively. Twelve important needs were unmet in 40-56% of the sample. The mean number of unmet needs was significantly higher among women than men, other relatives than spouses, younger family members, those currently working and those of patients with metastatic cancer. QOL was similar to what has been reported for healthy populations and cancer caregivers in advanced stages. The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depression was high (20-40%). Anxiety scores were higher among women than men and both anxiety and depression scores were highest during years 1-5 compared to the first year and more than five years post diagnosis. There was a positive relationship between number of important needs and QOL, and between needs met and QOL. Additionally, there was a significant relationship between anxiety and unmet needs. Finally, there was a significant relationship between QOL and symptoms of anxiety and depression. CONCLUSION: The results support the importance of screening needs and psychological distress among family members of cancer patients in all phases of illness.