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Colorectal cancer survivors: An investigation of symptom burden and influencing factors

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Linda Sharp



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018 The Author(s). Background: Colorectal cancer is a significant issue internationally, with over 1.3 million people diagnosed annually. Survival rates are increasing as treatments improve, although physical symptoms can persist despite eradication of the tumour. In order to optimize survivorship care, further research is warranted in relation to symptom burden. Therefore, the objectives of this study are to (i) investigate frequency of physical symptoms in colorectal cancer survivors (ii) identify which symptoms occur together (iii) examine the associations between demographic and clinical variables, and symptoms. Methods: Participants nine months to three years post diagnosis were identified from the population-based National Cancer Registry Ireland. Respondents completed the EORTC QLQ-C30 and EORTC QLQ-CR29. Reported physical symptom frequencies were transformed into continuous scale variables, which were then analysed using one way analysis of variance, general linear modelling and Spearman rank correlations. Results: There were 496 participants. Fatigue, insomnia and flatulence were the most frequent symptoms, with ≥20% of respondents reporting these to be often present in the previous week. Eight other symptoms were experienced often by 10-20% of respondents. At least one of these eleven most common symptoms was experienced frequently by almost every respondent (99%). 66% of respondents experienced at least two of these symptoms together, and 16% experienced five or more together. Current stoma was the single most common variable associated with increased symptom scores, although statistically significant relationships (p ≤ 0.05) between symptom frequency scores and clinical/demographic variables were generally weak (R-sq value ≤0.08). Conclusion: Findings may inform targeted interventions during the nine month to three year post diagnosis timeframe, which would enable supported self-management of symptoms.

Publication metadata

Author(s): O'Gorman C, Stack J, O'Ceilleachair A, Denieffe S, Gooney M, McKnight M, Sharp L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Cancer

Year: 2018

Volume: 18

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 22/10/2018

Acceptance date: 09/10/2018

Date deposited: 05/11/2018

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2407

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s12885-018-4923-3

PubMed id: 30348115


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