Health literacy and quality of life following rectal resections for cancer

Ba Thinh Nguyen, Toufic El-Khoury, Nimalan Pathmanathan, Peter Loder, Grahame Ctercteko


Background: Health literacy can be a stronger predictor of an individual’s health status than income, employment status, education level, and racial or ethnic group. The prevalence and impact of low health literacy in the rectal cancer patient population has received little attention. This study is a cross-sectional population survey to determine if there is a relationship between health literacy and quality of life in rectal cancer patients.

Methods: All rectal cancer patients having a clinical encounter with the Colorectal Unit at Westmead Hospital will be invited to participate in the study. Two validated health literacy screens (REALM-SF and NVS) were administered along with the EORTC QLQ-C30 quality of life assessment. The association between health literacy and quality of life will be examined using Spearman regression.

Results: 92 patients were recruited between March 2015 and July 2016. A significant proportion of our patients were found to have low health literacy (29.3 percent and 54.5 percent as measured by the REALM-SF and NVS, respectively). The mean QLQ-C30 summary score was 71.5 and the mean global health score was 69.4 (SD 23.3). There appeared to be no statistically significant correlation between health literacy and quality of life in our study. There was a moderately positive correlation between the NVS and REALM-SF (rho = 0.36, P <0.001).

Conclusions: A significant proportion of our patients that have had rectal resections for cancer have low health literacy. We have not been able to demonstrate an obvious association between health literacy and quality of life in the present study.


Health literacy, Quality of life, Rectal cancer

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