Cancer survivors may live with an array of physical, psychological and social disabilities which impact their day-to-day lives. The literature exploring quality of life in cancer survivorship is predominantly quantitative in nature; with inconsistencies in symptom prevalence owing to the multiplicity of generic and disease-specific quality of life instruments. This study explores the quality of life outcomes and symptom experiences of colorectal cancer survivors using a mixed methods sequential explanatory research design.
A purposive sample of adult colorectal cancer survivors between six and 60 months post-diagnosis (n = 304) were recruited from three public and private hospitals and 21 cancer support centres in Ireland. Participants completed a cross-sectional questionnaire; quality of life was evaluated using the EuroQol and FACT-C questionnaires. A sub-sample of 22 survey participants selected using a maximum variety sampling strategy took part in semi-structured interviews to explore their quality of life and symptom experiences in greater depth.
Quality of life scores reported by the sample were postive on average; however, more than half were dissatisfied with their quality of life, and more than three-quarters reported at least one physical, psychological or social survivorship issue. Negative body image (74%), sexual dysfunction (66%) and fatigue (64%) were the most common issues reported by survey participants. However, qualitative data suggest that less prevalent symptoms such as bowel dysfunction (28-57%) and peripheral neuropathy (47%) were associated with higher levels of unmet need and greatest distress, as they had the greatest potential to negatively impact social and psychological well-being.
The findings of this study demonstrate that although cancer survivors report positive quality of life outcomes, many may experience distressing physical, psychological and social effects. Given the finding that survivors associated greater unmet need and symptom-related distress with less common symptoms, it is imperative cancer survivors receive information and support that is based upon holistic person-centred evidence.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
Health Research Board.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.