Adolescents' and Young Adults' Experiences of Childhood Cancer

Descriptions of Daily Life 5 Years After Diagnosis

Eva Berg Doukkali, MSc; Jeanette Winterling, PhD; Lars E. Eriksson, PhD; Claudia Lampic, PhD; Anneli Silvén Hagström, MSc; Lena Wettergren, PhD


Cancer Nurs. 2013;36(5):400-407. 

In This Article


Background: Survivors of childhood cancer are a growing population in society. These young people have a high risk of developing chronic health problems with a potential strong impact on their lives. How a childhood cancer experience affects survivors in adolescence has been studied to a limited extent; an increased understanding of this young group is needed to improve follow-up care.

Objective: The aim of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of how childhood cancer affects the lives of survivors by exploring adolescents' and young adults' views of what it is like living with this experience.

Methods: Fifty-nine 11- to 22-year-olds were interviewed a median of 5 years after a cancer diagnosis (response rate, 66%). Data were collected through telephone interviews and were analyzed using qualitative content analysis techniques.

Results: Three groups of informants were identified according to their descriptions of the influence of cancer treatment on their daily life: "feeling like anyone else" (informants who described that the cancer experience had almost no influence on current life) (49%), "feeling almost like others" (those who described some influence) (44%), and "feeling different" (those describing a great influence on current life) (7%).

Conclusions: Most of the adolescents and young adults appear to get along well, although many informants described that life was affected to some extent by having had cancer.

Implications for Practice: Follow-up care is needed that can identify those young survivors of childhood cancer having trouble with daily life and offer them support to strengthen their resources in managing difficulties in relation to having had cancer.