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. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.