Study Finds Positive Psychology Can Help Mediate Some Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer


Identifying how survivors adjust to their cancer may help health care providers provide tailored self-management skills.

Findings from a recent study have found that positive psychology can help with symptom management and quality of life in patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

As treatments evolve and improve, patients with colorectal cancer are living longer, making factors such as symptom management and quality of life even more important.1 Positive psychology may be helpful for patients who are processing their diagnosis and treatments, and can involve techniques such as benefit finding and post-traumatic growth.

Studies have confirmed that patients with colorectal cancer are at an increased risk for mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, particularly if the follow-up time is greater than 1 year. Interestingly, when colorectal cancer patients experienced a follow-up within 1 year, they had a significantly higher risk for mood disorder and anxiety disorders, but a lower risk for depressive disorders compared with healthy controls.2

In the trial, investigators performed a cross-sectional study of 117 colorectal cancer survivors at a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. Data were collected using a demographic questionnaire, therapy-related symptom checklist, and quality of life inventory, and positive psychology was assessed using the Carver Benefit-Finding Scale and Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory.1 Their goal was to determine whether positive psychology moderates the relationship between symptoms and quality of life during acute cancer survivorship.3

According to the study results, the most common symptoms were peripheral neuropathy, fatigue, skin changes, sleep disturbances, and weakness. Psychological distress symptoms were reported in 38.46% of participants and moderate-to-high positive psychology and quality of life levels were reported during acute cancer survivorship.1

Significant relationships were observed between quality of life and number of symptoms, psychological distress symptoms, benefit finding, post-traumatic growth, and positive psychology. Importantly, positive psychology partially mediated the relationship between symptom frequency and quality of life.1

According to the study, participants reported high quality of life and moderate-to-high positive psychology. Nineteen symptoms and 5 symptom clusters were inversely related to quality of life, but positive psychology moderated the relationship of quality of life with symptom occurrence, symptom severity, and with the generalized symptom cluster (weakness, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, sleep disturbances, and pain).3

Based on these findings, the authors concluded that survivors of colorectal cancer cope positively with their cancer and treatment. Additionally, positive psychology partially mediates the relationship between symptom frequency and quality of life across acute cancer survivorship. Identifying how survivors adjust to their cancer may help health care providers to provide tailored self-management skills as well.1


  1. Sheikh-Wu S, Anglade D, Gattamorta K, Xiao C, and Downs C. Positive psychology mediates the relationship between symptom frequency and quality of life among colorectal cancer survivors during acute cancer survivorship. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2022 Jun;58;102136. doi:10.1016/j.ejon.2022.102136.
  2. Lutz R. Depression in Colorectal Cancer Patients Needs to be Monitored. Pharmacy Times. May 11, 2017. Accessed December 16, 2022.
  3. Sheikh-Wu S, Anglade D, Gattamorta K, Downs C. Relationships Between Colorectal Cancer Survivors’ Positive Psychology, Symptoms, and Quality of Life. Clin Nurs Res. 2023 Jan,32(1):171-184. doi:10.1177/10547738221113385
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