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How do individuals with colorectal cancer perceive the term “cancer survivor”: a cross-sectional survey



There are growing discussions regarding the term “cancer survivor,” particularly how patients with cancer relate to it.


To assess how individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC) perceive the term “cancer survivor.”


We conducted an international cross-sectional study and, using social media, invited individuals who were ≥18 years; received a diagnosis for CRC; and can communicate in English. We administered an online survey comprising both quantitative (e.g., multiple choice) and qualitative (e.g., open-ended) questions. We used logistic regression to assess determinants of participants’ perspectives towards the term “cancer survivor.” Qualitative responses were analyzed using content analysis.


In all, 539 participants with CRC completed the survey, including 122 (22.6%) undergoing treatment and 417 (77.4%) who completed treatment. Participants who had completed treatment were four times more likely to relate with term “cancer survivor” compared to those undergoing treatment (adjusted odds ratio (aOR), 4.0; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.4 to 6.7). Participants diagnosed with CRC ≥50 years were also more likely to relate with the term compared to those diagnosed < 50 years (aOR, 1.88; 95% (CI) 1.2 to 3.0). Analysis of open-ended survey responses revealed aversion, discomfort, indifference, reluctance, and acceptance as themes which capture the spectrum of feelings towards the term “cancer survivor.”


Perspectives of individuals with CRC towards the term “cancer survivor” differ according to treatment status and age of diagnosis.

Implication of Cancer Survivors

Our study amplifies voices of the CRC community towards reconsideration of the term “cancer survivor”, considering the implications of treatment status and age in highlighting the importance of language.

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We thank all of the participants for taking the time to share their experiences and perspectives for our study. We thank the following organizations for their support with promoting the study survey through their networks: Colorectal Cancer Canada and COLONTOWN®


Dr. De Vera holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair and is a recipient of a Scholar Award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

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Correspondence to Mary A. De Vera.

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Wee, M., Dau, H., Gastonguay, L. et al. How do individuals with colorectal cancer perceive the term “cancer survivor”: a cross-sectional survey. J Cancer Surviv 16, 257–268 (2022).

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