Only one in ten cancer survivors who visited a health provider over a year’s time was given advice about healthy diet, exercise, and tobacco use.  However, doctors didn’t discuss the three issues with adults without cancer either.  Ten percent of cancer survivors discussed all three topics with their doctors, compared to nine percent of adults who did not have cancer.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed data from the 2000 National Health Survey to find out if during the past year people who visited a health provider that provider,

  1. discussed diet
  2. recommended they begin or continue exercise,
  3. asked about smoking.

Sixteen hundred cancer survivors, more than a year beyond diagnosis, and nearly twenty-five thousand adults without cancer were interviewed face-to-face as part of the National Health Survey.  They were asked about discussions or recommendations for diet, exercise, and smoking made during a health visit during the past year

The analysis showed that:

  • 30 percent of survivors and 23 percent of adults without cancer reported diet discussions.
  • 22 percent of survivors and 24 percent of other adults were told to continue or begin exercising.
  • Fewer than half were asked about smoking (42 percent of survivors and 41 percent of those without cancer).

Colorectal cancer survivors were even less likely to have had discussions about exercise or smoking, although obesity and tobacco increase risk for colon and rectal cancer.  Compared to others in their age range:

  • 16 percent of colorectal cancer survivors and 27% of similar adults without cancer discussed beginning or continuing exercise.
  • 31 percent of colorectal survivors versus 41% of other adults were asked about their use of tobacco.

Susan Sabatino, M.D., and her colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta concluded:

Findings from this nationally representative sample suggest that many providers may miss opportunities to counsel survivors about healthy behaviors, perhaps particularly colorectal cancer survivors.

SOURCE: Sabatino et. al.  Journal of Clinical Oncology, Volume 25, Number 15, pages 2100-2106, May 20, 2007.

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