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Psychosocial implications of living 5 years or more following a cancer diagnosis: a systematic review of the research evidence


Dr Claire Foster, Reader and Head of Macmillan Research Unit, School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK (e-mail:


Mortality associated with cancer remains high, but more people are surviving cancer. Some people experience long-term problems associated with cancer and its treatment, and there is a need to know how to support them. This systematic literature review explores primary research for psychosocial implications of long-term survival (≥5 years) following a cancer diagnosis and interventions designed to address psychosocial problems in the long term. A systematic search of BIDS, BNI,, CINAHL, Medline, PsychINFO and Web of Science was conducted to identify research publications from 1960 to 2006. Papers were selected on the basis of pre-defined criteria and rated by three independent coders. Forty-three studies met the eligibility criteria. These indicated that most people experience few problems five or more years after their diagnosis of cancer. However, 20–30% of survivors consistently reported problems associated with cancer and its treatment including physical problems, poorer quality of life, psychological distress, sexual problems, problems with social relationships and financial concerns. Not all cancer types are represented in this review. Only two intervention studies met the eligibility criteria. Research is needed to establish appropriate interventions to support those experiencing problems in the long term to enhance well-being.