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Are long-term cancer survivors and physicians discussing health promotion and healthy behaviors?



This study aimed to (1) describe the proportion of survivors reporting that a physician discussed strategies to improve health and (2) identify which groups are more likely to report these discussions.


Lung cancer and colorectal cancer (CRC) survivors (>5 years from diagnosis) (n = 874) completed questionnaires, including questions on whether, in the previous year, a physician discussed (1) strategies to improve health, (2) exercise, and (3) diet habits. Chi-square tests and logistic regression models were used to examine whether the likelihood of these discussions varied by demographic and clinical characteristics.


Fifty-nine percent reported that a physician discussed strategies to improve health and exercise, 44 % reported discussions on diet, and 24 % reported no discussions. Compared to their counterparts, survivors with lower education were less likely to report discussing all three areas, but survivors with diabetes were more likely. Survivors ≥65 years old were less likely to report discussing strategies to improve health and diet. Males and CRC survivors reported discussing diet more than their female and lung cancer counterparts, respectively.


The frequency of health promotion discussions varied across survivor characteristics. Discussions were more frequently reported by some groups, e.g., survivors with diabetes, or among individuals less likely to engage in healthy behaviors. In contrast, males and older and less educated survivors were less likely to have these discussions.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Decreasing physician barriers and encouraging patients to discuss health promotion, especially in the context of clinical care for older survivors and those with low education, is essential for promoting the overall well-being of cancer survivors.

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The work was supported by the CanCORS consortium, which was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to the Statistical Coordinating Center (U01 CA093344) and the NCI-supported Primary Data Collection and Research Centers (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Cancer Research Network [U01 CA093332], Harvard Medical School/Northern California Cancer Center [U01 CA093324], RAND/UCLA [U01 CA093348], University of Alabama at Birmingham [U01CA093329], University of Iowa [U01CA093339], University of North Carolina [U01 CA 093326] and by a Department of Veterans Affairs grant to the Durham VA Medical Center [CRS 02–164]), and grant 2 T32 HS013852 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD, USA (KK). We thank Dr. Donald Hill from the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine for his editorial review of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michelle Y. Martin.

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Kenzik, K., Pisu, M., Fouad, M.N. et al. Are long-term cancer survivors and physicians discussing health promotion and healthy behaviors?. J Cancer Surviv 10, 271–279 (2016).

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  • Cancer survivors
  • Health behavior
  • Health promotion
  • Physician advice