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Support Care Cancer. 2015 Jul;23(7):1893-900. doi: 10.1007/s00520-014-2545-0. Epub 2014 Dec 6.

Changes in cancer patients' personal goals in the first 6 months after diagnosis: the role of illness variables.

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Department of Health Psychology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, FA-12, P.O. Box 196, 9700 AD, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Setting and pursuing personal goals is a vital aspect of our identity and purpose in life. Cancer can put pressure on these goals and may be a reason for people to adjust them. Therefore, this paper investigates (1) changes in cancer patients' goals over time and (2) the extent to which illness characteristics relate to goal changes.


At both assessment points (1 and 7 months post-diagnosis), colorectal cancer patients (nā€‰=ā€‰198) were asked to list their current goals and rate them on hindrance of illness, attainability, likelihood of success, temporal range and importance. All goals were coded by two independent raters on content (i.e. physical, psychological, social, achievement and leisure). Patients' medical data were obtained from the national cancer registry.


Over time, patients reported a decrease in illness-related hindrance, higher attainability and likelihood of success, a decrease in total number of goals, goals with a shorter temporal range, and more physical and fewer social goals. At both assessments, patients with more advanced stages of cancer, rectal cancer, a stoma, and receiving additional chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy reported more illness-related hindrance in goal attainment, but only patients with a stoma additionally reported lower attainability, likelihood of success and more short-term goals.


The results of this study support the assumption that cancer patients adjust their goals to changing circumstances and additionally show how patients adjust their goals to their illness. Moreover, we demonstrate that illness variables impact on goal change.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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