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Time Since Diagnosis as a Predictor of Symptoms, Depression, Cognition, Social Concerns, Perceived Benefits, and Overall Health in Cancer Survivors

Jill A. Bennett
Linda D. Cameron
Paul M. Brown
Lisa C. Whitehead
David Porter
Tanja Ottaway-Parkes
Elizabeth Robinson
ONF 2010, 37(3), 331-338 DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.331-338

Purpose/Objectives: To assess whether health and other factors are different in short-term cancer survivors (less than five years since diagnosis), long-term survivors (5-10 years), and very long-term survivors (more than 10 years).

Design: A cross-sectional survey.

Setting: New Zealand.

Sample: 836 survivors of adult-onset cancers (6 months to 43 years since diagnosis).

Methods: Survivors were recruited using community-based methods and answered a mailed questionnaire.

Main Research Variables: Physical and emotional health, depression, symptoms, cognitive difficulty, social concerns, and perceived benefits of cancer.

Findings: Physical and emotional health, depression, physical symptoms, and perceived benefits of cancer were not associated with time since diagnosis, but longer time since diagnosis was associated with decreases in cognitive difficulties and social concerns. The survivors in this study reported a mean of 8.4 physical symptoms, regardless of time since diagnosis, with the most frequent being fatigue (76%), aches and pain (75%), and trouble sleeping (68%).

Conclusions: Most survivors enjoyed a moderately good level of health. However, some adverse effects, such as symptoms, were similar in short-, long-, and very long-term survivors, suggesting that interventions may be needed to prevent persistent issues as time progresses.

Implications for Nursing: The findings suggest a need to reconsider the common attitude that survivors who finish treatment should be able to return to normal life. Assessment of symptoms, particularly fatigue, pain, and sleep issues, is important even in very long-term survivors.

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