Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 18–26 | Cite as

Do ongoing lifestyle disruptions differ across cancer types after the conclusion of cancer treatment?

  • Kenneth Mah
  • Andrea Bezjak
  • D. Andrew Loblaw
  • Andrew Gotowiec
  • Gerald M. Devins



Cancer interferes with participation in valued lifestyle activities (illness intrusiveness) throughout post-treatment survivorship. We investigated whether illness intrusiveness differs across life domains among survivors with diverse cancers. Intrusiveness should be highest in activities requiring physical/cognitive functioning (instrumental domain). Intrusiveness into relationship/sexual functioning (intimacy domain) should be higher in prostate, breast, and gastrointestinal cancers than in others.


Cancer outpatients (N = 656; 51% men) completed the Illness Intrusiveness Ratings Scale (IIRS) during follow-up. We compared IIRS Instrumental, Intimacy, and Relationships and Personal Development [RPD] subscale and total scores across gastrointestinal, lung, lymphoma, head and neck, prostate (men), and breast cancers (women), comparing men and women separately.


Instrumental subscale scores (Mmen = 3.05–3.80, Mwomen = 3.02–3.63) were highest for all groups, except prostate cancer. Men with prostate cancer scored higher on Intimacy (M = 3.40) than Instrumental (M = 2.48) or RPD (M = 1.59), p’s < .05; their Intimacy scores did not differ from men with gastrointestinal or lung cancer. Women collectively showed higher Instrumental (M = 3.39) than Intimacy (M = 2.49) or RPD scores (M = 2.27), p’s < .001, but not the hypothesized group difference in Intimacy.


Post-treatment survivors continue to experience some long-term interference with activities requiring physical and cognitive functioning. Sexual adjustment may be of special concern to men when treatments involve genitourinary functioning.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Ongoing monitoring with the IIRS to detect lifestyle interference throughout survivorship may enhance quality of life. Screening and intervention should target particular life domains rather than global interference.


Cancer diagnosis Cancer survivorship Illness intrusiveness Psychosocial factors Quality of life 



This research was supported by funding from the University Health Network (UHN) Quality Program, the Princess Margaret Hospital’s Department of Radiation Oncology, and the Princess Margaret Hospital’s Quality of Life Clinical Research Program. This research was also supported in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through a post-doctoral fellowship to Kenneth Mah and a Senior Investigator Award to Gerald M. Devins. Thanks to Bev Devins and Wendy Maharaj for assistance in collecting the data. We extend our gratitude to the members of the UHN Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care Quality of Life Manuscript-Review Seminar for their invaluable feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth Mah
    • 1
  • Andrea Bezjak
    • 2
  • D. Andrew Loblaw
    • 3
  • Andrew Gotowiec
    • 4
  • Gerald M. Devins
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care ProgramPrincess Margaret HospitalTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Radiation OncologyPrincess Margaret Hospital, and University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Odette Cancer Cancer CentreSunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatrySt. Joseph’s Health Centre, and University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care ProgramOntario Cancer Institute, Princess Margaret Hospital, and University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Toronto General HospitalTorontoCanada

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