Survivor identity after colorectal cancer: antecedents, prevalence and outcomes

Suzanne Chambers, Peter Baade, Xingqiong Meng, Pip Youl, Joanne Aitken, Jeff Dunn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective Cancer survivor identity has become a dominant paradigm in describing people with cancer and in driving the focus of programmes and research in supportive care. This study investigated antecedents of survivor identity adoption and population-based prevalence. Methods A prospective survey of a population-based sample of 1966 (57% response) patients with colorectal cancer assessed socio-demographic variables, health behaviours, optimism, benefit finding, cancer threat appraisal, psychological distress and satisfaction with life at 5 months post-diagnosis as predictors of survivor identity 5 years subsequently. Prevalence of survivor identity at 5 years post-diagnosis and psychological and lifestyle outcomes (n = 786) were later assessed. Results Fifty-five per cent of people identified as a cancer survivor, 39.4% as a person who had had (or has) cancer, 1.4% as a cancer patient and 1.2% as a cancer victim. People who were older and who reported higher personal growth after diagnosis were more likely to assume a survivor identity at 5 years. At 5 years, survivors had higher benefit finding and better satisfaction with life. Cancer survivors uniquely reported a significant decrease in somatization and acceptance, and increases in satisfaction with life and physical activity over time. Conclusions For patients with colorectal cancer, the cancer survivor identity is common but not universal 5 years after diagnosis; and may evolve from looking for benefit after cancer through personal growth. People who adopt a cancer survivor identity report more positive adjustment outcomes after cancer and this has implications for the design of clinical and community support interventions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)962-969
    Number of pages8
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


    • benefit finding
    • cancer survivor identity
    • oncology
    • satisfaction with life
    • somatisation

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