"Still a Cancer Patient"-Associations of Cancer Identity With Patient-Reported Outcomes and Health Care Use Among Cancer Survivors

Melissa Thong, Eva-Maria Wolschon, Lena Koch-Gallenkamp, Annika Waldmann, Mechthild Waldeyer-Sauerland, Ron Pritzkuleit, Heike Bertram, Andrea Eberle, Bernd Holleczek, Sylke Zeissig, Hermann Brenner, Volker Arndt


The concept of cancer identity is gaining attention as more individuals are living with cancer as a chronic illness. Research is limited, and results suggest that a self-identity as “cancer patient” rather than a “cancer survivor” is associated with depression and lower health-related quality of life (HRQL). We aimed to identify factors associated with patient identity and investigate the associations between patient identity and treatment, health care use, psychosocial distress, and HRQL.

We used data from the population-based CAncEr Survivorship: A multi-Regional (CAESAR) study. Breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer survivors diagnosed during 1994–2004 completed a postal survey on patient identity, HRQL, psychological distress, and health care use in 2009–2011. We calculated odds ratios and the 95% confidence interval of having a patient identity. Analyses were adjusted for age, sex, education, and cancer stage, where appropriate.

Of the 6057 respondents, colorectal cancer survivors (25%) were least likely to consider themselves patients, and prostate cancer survivors (36%) the most likely. Being male, younger age, comorbidity, higher cancer stage, and disease recurrence were associated with patient identity. Treatment was associated with patient identity, except among female colorectal cancer survivors. Having a patient identity was associated with higher health care use within the past 12 months. Survivors who still consider themselves patients were more likely to be depressed and reported significantly lower HRQL.

A significant proportion of cancer survivors still consider themselves patients five to 15 years postdiagnosis. Sensitivity to individuals’ self-identity should be considered when exploring their cancer experience.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCancer Spectrum
Issue number2
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 05.07.2018

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Population Medicine and Public Health (ZBV)


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