Using a Whole Person Approach to Support People with Cancer: A Longitudinal, Mixed-Methods Service Evaluation

Marie Polley, Rachel Jolliffe, Emily Boxell, Catherine Zollman, Sarah Jackson, Helen Seers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Improved models of care are needed to meet all the support needs of people with cancer, which encompass psychological, emotional, physical, spiritual, sexual, occupational, social and existential needs. The aim of this article is to (a) evaluate short- and long-term impacts of using a whole person approach to support people with cancer on the Living Well with the Impact of Cancer Course (LWC) and (b) use these data to inform strategic decisions about future service provision at Penny Brohn UK. Methods. Longitudinal mixed-methods service evaluation (n = 135). Data collected included health-related quality of life (HRQoL) (FACIT-SpEx); Concerns (types and severity–MYCaW); lifestyle behavior (bespoke questionnaire), and participants’ experiences over 12 months postcourse. Results. Statistically and clinically significant improvements from baseline to 12 months in severity of MYCaW Concerns (n = 64; P < .000) and mean total HRQoL (n = 66; P < .000). The majority of MYCaW concerns were “psychological and emotional” and about participants’ well-being. Spiritual, emotional, and functional well-being contributed most to HRQoL improvements at 12 months. Barriers to maintaining healthy lifestyle changes included lack of support from family and friends, time constraints, and returning to work. Three to 6 months postcourse was identified as the time when more support was most likely to be needed. Conclusions. Using a whole person approach for the LWC enabled the needs of participants to be met, and statistically and clinically significant improvements in HRQoL and MYCaW Concerns were reported. Qualitative data analysis explored how experiencing whole person support enabled participants to make and sustain healthy lifestyle changes associated with improved survivorship. Barriers experienced to making health behavior change were also identified. These data then informed wider and more person-centered clinical provision to increase the maintenance of positive long-term behavior changes. Comparison of whole person approaches to cancer treatment and support and standard care are now urgently needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-445
Number of pages11
JournalIntegrative Cancer Therapies
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

Cite this