OBJECTIVE: Physical activity (PA) and a healthy diet can improve the well-being of cancer survivors. However, cancer survivors often do not engage in these behaviours. This study aimed to explore barriers and facilitators to engaging in these behaviours following cancer treatment.
METHODS: During the development of a Web-based intervention to enhance health-related quality of life in cancer survivors, 32 people who had completed treatment for breast, colon, or prostate cancer were presented with an intervention for PA and healthy eating. In-depth think-aloud and semi-structured interviewing techniques were used to elicit perceptions of both behaviours. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
RESULTS: Some individuals reported implementing positive health behaviour changes to maintain health and prevent recurrence, or to help them to move forward after cancer. However, others reported feeling abandoned, and many did not report an intention to engage in lifestyle changes. Individuals discussed contextual and health-related barriers that were specifically linked to their situation as post-treatment cancer survivors: individuals described uncertainty about how to implement adaptive changes and perceived a lack of support from health care providers. Others viewed behaviour change as unnecessary or undesirable, with some arguing that non-modifiable factors contributed more to their cancer diagnosis than lifestyle-related factors.
CONCLUSIONS: For many participants in this study, the period that follows treatment for cancer did not represent a "teachable moment." A variety of complex and heterogeneous factors appeared to impact motivation and may limit cancer survivors from engaging with diet and PA changes.