Breast and colorectal cancer survivors' knowledge about their diagnosis and treatment

Mary Jo Nissen, Michaela L. Tsai, Anne H. Blaes, Karen K. Swenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Introduction: Aspects of a personal cancer history can have implications for future decisions regarding screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Clinicians must sometimes rely on patients' self-report of their medical history. This study assessed knowledge of details of cancer diagnosis and treatment among breast and colorectal cancer survivors. Methods: Written surveys were completed by 480 breast cancer survivors and 366 colorectal cancer survivors diagnosed between 1999 and 2008 at a large cancer center in the Minneapolis, MN, area (81% response rate). Responses were compared with cancer registry and medical records. Results: Forty percent of breast cancer survivors and 65% of colorectal cancer survivors were unable to identify their stage of disease. Seven percent of breast cancer survivors and 21% of colorectal cancer survivors in whom regional nodes were examined did not know whether they had positive nodes. Accuracy of knowledge of estrogen and progesterone status among breast cancer survivors was 58% and 39%, respectively. Of breast cancer survivors treated with doxorubicin, 43% correctly identified it as a drug they had received. Their accuracy of identification of receipt of tamoxifen or specific aromatase inhibitors was >90%. Of colorectal cancer survivors treated with oxaliplatin, 52% correctly identified it as a drug they had received. Accuracy on many items decreased with patient age. Conclusions: This study identifies several gaps in adult cancer survivors' knowledge of details of their diagnosis and treatment that have implications for follow-up care. Implications for cancer survivors: Provision of written treatment summaries to cancer survivors could help them obtain appropriate patient-centered long-term follow-up care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-32
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This project was funded by Park Nicollet Foundation. We thank Susan Koering for her assistance with registry data, Dr. DeAnn Lazovich for helpful comments on the manuscript, and Melissa McMahon for clerical assistance.


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Colorectal neoplasms
  • Health knowledge
  • Patient education
  • Survivors


Dive into the research topics of 'Breast and colorectal cancer survivors' knowledge about their diagnosis and treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this