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Colorectal cancer is one of the most common invasive cancers, and is responsible for considerable physical and psychosocial morbidity. Understanding the quality of life experienced by colorectal cancer patients is essential for evaluating the full impact of the disease on individuals, their families and their communities. Patient perspective is essential in establishing a proper understanding of the quality of life of colorectal cancer patients. Despite this, few studies have employed a qualitative methodology to explore quality of life issues for colorectal cancer patients. A review of the literature identified only seven qualitative studies pertaining to quality of life issues for colorectal cancer patients, a surprising finding given the prevalence of this cancer. Accordingly, this study sought to build on the findings of previous qualitative research by providing descriptive data on the quality of life and psychosocial variables most salient to colorectal cancer patients. Six core themes emerged from interview and focus group data: Satisfaction with diagnosis and treatment; support (including information provision); quality of life; benefits of diagnosis; making sense of the cancer experience; and coping strategies. The information derived from this study will help inform the development of supportive care services to address the needs of the increasing number of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.