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Surviving cancer treatment: An investigation of the experience of fear about, and monitoring for, recurrence in patients following treatment for colorectal cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Claire Taylor, Alison Richardson, Sarah Cowley

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243 - 249
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011

King's Authors


Background: It is known that many individuals worry about their cancer recurring after colorectal cancer treatment but the significance and specific manifestations of this problem require exploration. Purpose: This paper reports upon the research findings of a qualitative study to explain how fears of recurrence can affect individuals recovering from curative colorectal cancer surgery. Methods: A longitudinal, grounded theory study was conducted. Sixteen participants who had received curative treatment for colorectal cancer were interviewed on up to four occasions during the 12 months following their surgery, 62 interviews were conducted in total. Results: Many participants expressed anxiety about if and when their cancer might return, despite the knowledge that they had had successful treatment for early-stage colorectal cancer. This fear led some to adopt new behaviours in a desire to achieve a more dependable and controllable body. Heightened monitoring and management of the body characterised a state of 'guarding' - a concept developed from the data. By contrast, other participants did not perceive the risk of cancer recurrence to be as personally threatening or were able to assume strategies to manage any such concerns and find a sense of resolution to their recovery. Conclusion: The nature of an individual's response to fears of recurrence and consequent impact on their recovery warrants greater clinical consideration. Providing opportunities to openly discuss the possibility of cancer recurrence, assessing individual fears and offering suggestions on possible coping strategies to lessen the associated distress, are essential supportive activities enabling transition to life beyond cancer. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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