Patients completed measures of cancer-related worry (Cancer Related Worries Scale), depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), posttraumatic growth (Benefit Finding Scale), and open-ended survey questions 6, 12, and 18 months postdiagnosis of head and neck, esophageal, gastric, or colorectal cancer. Previously published narrative analysis revealed five distinct survivorship “paths,” which were combined into four paths in the present article: Moving On, Seeing the World Differently, Taking One Day at a Time, and Never the Same. To determine the association of qualitatively determined paths with quantitatively assessed adjustment (i.e., Cancer Related Worries Scale, Patient Health Questionnaire-9, Benefit Finding Scale), we used linear multilevel modeling to regress the adjustment variables on time, path, the time-by-path interaction, and relevant covariates (age, stage, cancer site, ethnicity, and Deyo score).
There was a significant main effect of path on cancer worry, depression, and posttraumatic growth (p < 0.02 for all). Patients in the Moving On group reported consistently low worry, depression, and growth compared to the other groups. Patients in the Seeing the World Differently and Taking One Day at a Time paths both reported moderate worry and depression; but those in the Seeing the World Differently path reported the highest posttraumatic growth, whereas patients in the Taking One Day at a Time path reported little growth. Finally, patients in the Never the Same path reported the highest worry and depression but lowest posttraumatic growth.
Significance of results
This longitudinal study reinforces the notion that cancer survivorship is not a one-size-fits-all experience nor a dichotomized experience of “distress” or “no distress.” Additionally, this hypothesis-generating study suggests future directions for potential self-report measures to help clinicians identify cancer survivors’ trajectory to develop a more patient-centered survivorship care plan.