The Impact of Cancer Diagnosis on the Lifestyle and Habits of Patients Served at a Veterans Administration Hospital

J Cancer Educ. Fall 2006;21(3):147-50. doi: 10.1207/s15430154jce2103_12.


Background: Cancer diagnosis is associated with many changes in the life of the patients. However, the impact of cancer diagnosis on the lifestyle and habits of veterans has not been reported.

Method: We conducted a cross-sectional study of veterans with cancer to evaluate the impact of cancer diagnosis on their lifestyle including diet, habits, and exercise. We correlated habit changes with demographic and disease-related factors.

Results: We surveyed 200 patients. Most patients were males (98%), with median age of 68 years (range, 36-87) and with the following types of malignancy: genitourinary (39.5%); lung (19.5%); gastrointestinal (14.5%); hematologic (16%); skin, head, and neck (6.5%); and others (4%). Of the patients, 83.5% were current or former smokers with a median smoking history of 54.4 pack-year (range, 2-198). Less than a quarter of the patients changed behaviors positively (decreased smoking, drinking, and fat consumption; increased exercise and fruit/vegetable consumption). Up to two thirds of the patients did not change any of these habits.

Conclusion: Although many veterans may adopt healthier habits after cancer diagnosis, a larger portion of them do not, which highlights the need for further evaluation and implementation of educational interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Habits*
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Hospitals, Veterans*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Smoking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Veterans*