The impact of a cancer diagnosis on the health behaviors of cancer survivors and their family and friends
- First Online:
- 529 Downloads
The aim of this study was to examine the effect of a cancer diagnosis on the health behaviors of cancer survivors and their family and friends, and to determine whether a cancer diagnosis could be a teachable moment for intervention.
Materials and methods
This was a cross-sectional study of the health behaviors of individuals taking part in a cancer fundraising event. The questionnaire was completed by 657 participants.
Participants were 81.4% women, had a mean age of 46 years, and comprised of 17.2% cancer survivors. For cancer survivors, 31.3% reported an increase in physical activity, 50% of smokers quit, and 59 to 72% reported dietary improvements within 1 month of diagnosis. Significant differences in behavior change were found by age, but not by gender or education. For individuals without cancer, 24.3% reported improved physical activity and the majority reported some dietary changes. A greater proportion of family and friends who perceived they were at greater risk of developing cancer increased physical activity and sun-smart behavior but did not improve dietary habits.
The results indicate that the cancer survivors made significantly more positive health behavior changes compared to the non-cancer group. For this sample, a personal diagnosis of cancer, or a diagnosis in a family member or friend, may have acted as a ‘cue to action’ to improve lifestyle health behaviors. This field of research is still at an early stage, and further studies are needed to confirm if this situation could be useful as a ‘teachable moment’ for intervention purposes.
KeywordsCancer Physical activity Exercise Diet Health behavior
- 1.American Cancer Society (2004) Cancer facts and figures. http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/CAFF_finalPWSecured.pdf
- 3.Armstrong T, Bauman A, Davies J (2000) Physical activity patterns of Australian adults. Results of the 1999 National Physical Activity Survey. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, CanberraGoogle Scholar
- 5.Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2004) National Cancer Statistics Clearing House. http://www.aihw.gov.au/cancer/ncsch/index.html
- 12.Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care (1999) National physical activity guidelines for Australians. Australian Government Publishing Service, CanberraGoogle Scholar
- 20.Hervouet S, Savard J, Simard S, Ivers H, Laverdiere J, Vigneault E, Fradet Y, Lacombe L (2005) Psychological functioning associated with prostate cancer: cross-sectional comparison of patients treated with radiotherapy, brachytherapy, or surgery. J Pain Symptom Manage 30:474–484PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 21.Hewitt M, Rowland JH, Yancik R (2003) Cancer survivors in the United States: age, health, and disability. J Gerontol 58A:82–91Google Scholar
- 23.Janz N, Champion V, Strecher V (2002) The health belief model. In: Glanz K, Rimer B, Lewis F (eds) Health behavior and health education: theory, research, and practice, 3rd edn. Jossey–Bass, San Francisco, pp 45–66Google Scholar
- 42.Satia J, Campbell M, Galanko J, James A, Carr C, Sandler R (2004) Longitudinal changes in lifestyle behaviors and health status in colon cancer survivors. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark 13:1022–1031Google Scholar
- 44.Tracey E, Roder D, Bishop J, Chen S, Chen W (2005) Cancer in New South Wales: incidence and mortality 2003. NSW Cancer Institute, SydneyGoogle Scholar
- 45.USDHHS (1996) Physical activity and health: a report of the Surgeon General. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, AtlantaGoogle Scholar