Patients’ perspectives on a talking therapy for cancer aftercare


Session type:

Sheila Donovan1, Elisavet Moschopoulou1, Damien Ridge2, Trudie Chalder3, Imran Khan1, Stephanie Taylor1
1Queen Mary University of London, 2University of Westminster, 3King’s College London (KCL)



Two million people in the UK are living with or beyond cancer. One third report poor quality of life due to problems such as fatigue, fear of cancer recurrence and concerns about returning to work. SURECAN (SUrvivors’ Rehabilitation Evaluation after CANcer) is a multi-phase study developing and evaluating a talking therapy based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), with integrated options for exercise and vocational support, for people who have completed treatment for cancer, but experience poor quality of life. In the development phase for the talking therapy, which we have named ‘ACT+’, we interviewed patients to explore their perceptions of, and responses to ACT+.


Four focus groups and 11 interviews were conducted with 31 individuals who were within 12 months of completing treatment with curative intent for breast, colorectal, prostate, haematological or head and neck cancer. Recruitment was via cancer clinics at study research sites. Participants’ views were sought on ACT+. Focus groups and interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was undertaken.


In their responses to ACT+, participants drew on their experiences of aftercare, which included being signposted to, or researching and accessing support services; membership of cancer support groups; and attending cancer follow up clinics. For some, follow-up clinic appointments were limited in terms of how psychological needs were addressed. ’Being a candidate’ for ACT+ was a theme across the interviews. This encompassed participants’ views on why they would, or would not undertake ACT+ therapy, if offered; why others might, or might not be receptive to ACT+; and the eligibility criteria for the study, and how they were to be applied. ACT+ made sense to participants. The individual’s values as a cornerstone of therapy and the integrated options for physical activity and vocational support had particular resonance.


ACT+ was seen as a beneficial approach for aftercare by patients who had undergone treatment for cancer.

Impact statement

Interview findings have illuminated patients’ experiences in the post-treatment phase of the cancer care trajectory and provide insight into how patients may engage with aftercare support services.