Quality of Life Research

, Volume 21, Issue 9, pp 1551–1564 | Cite as

A five-year prospective study of quality of life after colorectal cancer

  • Suzanne K. ChambersEmail author
  • Xingqiong Meng
  • Pip Youl
  • Joanne Aitken
  • Jeff Dunn
  • Peter Baade



Long-term (≥5 years) quality of life after colorectal cancer is not well described. The present study assessed quality of life (QOL) and psychological distress in colorectal cancer survivors more than 5 years to describe changes over time and antecedents of long-term outcomes.


A prospective survey of a population-based sample of 763 colorectal cancer patients assessed socio-demographic variables, health behaviors, optimism, threat appraisal, and perceived social support at 5 months post-diagnosis as predictors of QOL and psychological distress 5 years post-diagnosis.


QOL improved over time (P < 0.01 for each measure); however, measures of psychological distress remained stable (P > 0.07 for each measure). Risk factors for poorer QOL and/or greater psychological distress included: later stage disease, having a permanent stoma, rectal cancer, fatigue, smoking, being single, low social support, low optimism, and a more negative cancer threat appraisal. Being women, having a pet, having a private health insurance, and receiving both surgery and adjuvant treatment were protective.


Consistent with response shift theory, the antecedents of QOL after colorectal cancer are multifactorial and include predisposing socio-demographic, medical, and psychological variables. Psychosocial interventions that target both social support and threat appraisal may be effective for this patient group. Additional stepped-up support may be needed for people from a poorer social environment who have multiple risk factors for poorer adjustment. Health system effects require further investigation.


Colorectal cancer Quality of life Psychological distress Response shift 



Quality of life


Colorectal cancer


Body mass index


Physical activity


Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Colorectal


Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General


Brief Symptoms Inventory-18


Global Severity Index




Long term



This project was funded by the Cancer Council Queensland. We thank Rachel Austin and Monica West for research support.

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interest for any authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne K. Chambers
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Xingqiong Meng
    • 2
  • Pip Youl
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joanne Aitken
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Jeff Dunn
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Peter Baade
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Griffith Health InstituteGriffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia
  2. 2.Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer ControlCancer Council QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Clinical ResearchUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.School of Public HealthQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.School of Social ScienceUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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