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The University of Southampton
Macmillan Survivorship Research Group

Colorectal cancer survivor and carer experiences of fear of recurrence, communication and emotional support.

Faculty Studentship awarded to Issy Scott, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton
Supervisors: Dr Claire Foster and Prof Alison Richardson

The number of people surviving cancer has increased in the past few years; by the end of 2006 there were 1.13 million cancer survivors in the UK (Cancer Research UK, 2011). Because of this, attention has been drawn to the survivorship stage of cancer and how individuals adapt and manage the issues that arise (Simard et al., 2010). One of the issues faced by survivors of cancer is the fear of recurrence. This is believed to be a very common experience, and it can persist long after cancer treatment has finished (Northouse, 1981; Lee-Jones, Humphris et al., 1997; Humphris, et al., 2003).
Fear of recurrence can be debilitating, with cancer survivors experiencing high levels of emotional distress, low wellbeing, low quality of life and reduced psychological adaptation to the cancer experience (Skaali et al., 2009; Bellizzi et al., 2008; Hart et al., 2008).
Evidence indicates that high levels of fear of recurrence are associated with high levels of emotional distress (Skaali et al., 2009), and the amount of communication regarding cancer has been found to have an influence on the emotional distress and fear of recurrence experienced (Walker, 1997).
This study will use a mixed methods approach to establish the degree to which fear of recurrence is experienced by colorectal cancer survivors at nine and fifteen months post surgical treatment as well as the extent to which discussions regarding concerns over cancer (communication) and emotional support are experienced at the same points. Questionnaires will be used to examine the effect of concerns regarding the recurrence of cancer on levels of communication and emotional support, as well as how communication and emotional support may affect the degree that fear of recurrence is experienced by colorectal cancer survivors. Interviews will supply a deeper understanding of the nature of fear of recurrence in both colorectal cancer survivors and their main carers, and will explore how the nature and degree of fear of recurrence influences the type of communication and emotional support experienced as well as how the type of communication and emotional support experienced affects the nature and degree of fear of recurrence.

If you have any queries regarding this study please contact the MSRG secretary on 02380 596885, or email

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