Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 1893–1900 | Cite as

Changes in cancer patients’ personal goals in the first 6 months after diagnosis: the role of illness variables

  • Moniek Janse
  • Adelita V. Ranchor
  • Ans Smink
  • Mirjam A. G. Sprangers
  • Joke Fleer
Original Article



Setting and pursuing personal goals is a vital aspect of our identity and purpose in life. Cancer can put pressure on these goals and may be a reason for people to adjust them. Therefore, this paper investigates (1) changes in cancer patients’ goals over time and (2) the extent to which illness characteristics relate to goal changes.


At both assessment points (1 and 7 months post-diagnosis), colorectal cancer patients (n = 198) were asked to list their current goals and rate them on hindrance of illness, attainability, likelihood of success, temporal range and importance. All goals were coded by two independent raters on content (i.e. physical, psychological, social, achievement and leisure). Patients’ medical data were obtained from the national cancer registry.


Over time, patients reported a decrease in illness-related hindrance, higher attainability and likelihood of success, a decrease in total number of goals, goals with a shorter temporal range, and more physical and fewer social goals. At both assessments, patients with more advanced stages of cancer, rectal cancer, a stoma, and receiving additional chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy reported more illness-related hindrance in goal attainment, but only patients with a stoma additionally reported lower attainability, likelihood of success and more short-term goals.


The results of this study support the assumption that cancer patients adjust their goals to changing circumstances and additionally show how patients adjust their goals to their illness. Moreover, we demonstrate that illness variables impact on goal change.


Goals Oncology Adjustment Cancer 



This work was supported by the Dutch Cancer Society (RUG 2009–4461).

Medical records were supplied by The Netherlands Cancer Registry, managed by the Comprehensive Cancer Centre of The Netherlands.

Conflict of interest

None declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moniek Janse
    • 1
  • Adelita V. Ranchor
    • 1
  • Ans Smink
    • 1
  • Mirjam A. G. Sprangers
    • 2
  • Joke Fleer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Health PsychologyUniversity Medical Center Groningen, University of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Medical PsychologyUniversity of Amsterdam, Academic Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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