Objective: To explore colorectal cancer survivors' beliefs about diet, dietary supplements, health, and cancer in relation to beliefs of a similar group without colorectal cancer.
Design: In-depth, semistructured, open-ended interviews were used to examine perceptions.
Participants: Twenty-two participants (10 colorectal cancer survivors and 12 from a comparison group) from the North Carolina Strategies for Improving Diet, Exercise, and Screening Study.
Analysis: Verbatim interview transcripts were coded and analyzed. Comparisons were made between colorectal cancer survivors and the comparison group.
Results: Three main themes emerged: the influence of significant life events on dietary change, concerns about contaminants in the food supply, and a lack of physician guidance in dietary supplement selection.
Conclusion and implications: The experience of colorectal cancer is significant and may lead to dietary change among some survivors, but these findings do not suggest that it is necessarily more influential than other life events. Participants sought to control diet (for coping or survival) and also felt that diet cannot be controlled (due to the contamination of the food supply). Although many lacked guidance from physicians about dietary supplements, they were comfortable making their own decisions to self-treat. Enhanced understanding of the themes that guide selection of diet and dietary supplements can provide a context for dietitians in practice and researchers conducting behavioral interventions.