We aimed to determine the quality of life (QOL) for long term survivors of colorectal cancer.
Persons with colorectal cancer who had survived at least 5 yr from diagnosis were recruited from a local cancer registry to answer questions about general QOL and colon cancer-specific issues. Before the general survey, focus group interviews with long term survivors were conducted to select survey questions from a pool of general and cancer-specific QOL questionnaires. The survey included the Health Utilities Index, the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, and questions from the Short Form 36 and Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Colorectal Cancer. After permission was obtained from their primary physicians, long term survivors from the registry were mailed invitation letters, then telephoned. Those agreeing were mailed self-administered questionnaires with stamped return envelopes.
Two hundred twenty-seven respondents (average age = 74 yr, 46% female) completed the survey. Survivors reported a relatively uniform and high QOL, irrespective of stage at diagnosis and time from diagnosis. Non-cancer related comorbid conditions and low income status had more influence on overall QOL than initial stage of colorectal cancer or time since diagnosis. Compared to age-matched populations, long term survivors reported higher overall QOL, but had higher rates of depression. Sixteen percent reported three or more bowel movements a day; 49% reported chronic recurrent diarrhea.
Those who achieve long term remission from colorectal cancer may experience a relatively high QOL, although physical symptoms such as diarrhea and depressive symptoms remain a problem.