Palliative and Supportive Care

Original Articles

Transitioning from active treatment: Colorectal cancer survivors’ health promotion goals

Nynikka R.A. Palmera1 c1, L. Kay Bartholomewa2, Sheryl A. McCurdya2, Karen M. Basen-Engquista3 and Aanand D. Naika4

a1 Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

a2 Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas

a3 Department of Behavioral Science, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas

a4 Houston VA Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence, The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas


Objective: The purpose of this study is to describe the post-treatment goals of colorectal cancer (CRC) survivors. We sought to determine whether goals were a salient concept during the period immediately following treatment, and whether a goal-setting intervention might be feasible and acceptable to these patients.

Method: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were administered to a convenience sample of 41 CRC patients who were 0–24 months post-treatment. Topics discussed included expectations and goals for future health, cancer prevention awareness, health-promoting behavior-change goals, and post-treatment cancer issues. Content analysis was used to explore emergent themes.

Results: Overall, participants’ health-related goals were: being healthy, getting back to normal, and not having a cancer recurrence. Most of the CRC survivors reported being proactive with their health by maintaining healthy behaviors or making healthy behavior changes, or had goals to change their behavior. All respondents had plans to maintain follow-up care and regular screening appointments. Some patients were managing treatment side effects or non-cancer issues that limited their functional abilities. Many respondents were satisfied with the care they received, and felt it was now their responsibility to do their part in taking care of themselves.

Significance of results: CRC survivors talk about goals, and many of them are either making or have an interest in making health behavior changes. Self-management support could be an appropriate strategy to assist patients with achieving their health goals post-treatment. Patients may need help addressing lingering treatment side effects or non-cancer issues. Healthcare providers should consider assessing patients’ goals to help patients resolve post-treatment issues and promote healthy behaviors.

(Received October 05 2011)

(Accepted November 18 2011)


  • Colorectal cancer;
  • Survivorship;
  • Health promotion;
  • Health goals;
  • Post-treatment period


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Nynikka Palmer, Department of Social Sciences & Health Policy, Division of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157. E-mail: