Capitalizing on the “teachable moment” to promote healthy dietary changes among cancer survivors: the perspectives of health care providers

Kisha I. Coa, Katherine Clegg Smith, Ann C. Klassen, Laura E. Caulfield, Kathy Helzlsouer, Kim Peairs, Lillie Shockney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose: Although cancer is often thought of as a teachable moment, many cancer survivors do not adhere to behavioral recommendations that might improve their health. This study explored health care providers’ perspectives on the importance and feasibility of addressing behavior change, specifically healthy diet, with cancer survivors.Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 33 health care providers who care for posttreatment survivors of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Interviews were analyzed thematically.Results: Health care providers emphasized the strength of evidence linking diet/obesity to recurrence in their assessment of the importance of promoting dietary change among their survivor patients. Cancer specialists (e.g., oncologists, surgeons) generally brought up dietary change with patients if they considered the evidence to be strong. In contrast, primary care providers viewed health promotion as important for all patients and reported treating cancer survivor patients the same as others when it came to making dietary recommendations. There was a lack of consensus among providers on the best timing to bring up behavior change. Providers described specific subgroups of patients who they saw as more motivated to make behavior changes and patient barriers to making dietary changes.Conclusions: Health care providers can play an important role in promoting healthy diet among cancer survivors. As the evidence base around diet and cancer recurrence/prognosis grows, it is important that this information is communicated to providers. Strategies such as incorporating behavior change messages into survivor care plans may help standardize recommendations to survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-686
Number of pages8
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2015


  • Behavior change
  • Cancer survivors
  • Diet
  • Health care providers
  • Teachable moment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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