The experiences of older people living with cancer

Cancer Nurs. 2003 Apr;26(2):85-96. doi: 10.1097/00002820-200304000-00001.


Nursing care for older people with cancer requires an understanding of their history and current needs from both an individual and generalized view. The aim of this study was to investigate the experience of older people living with cancer and the way it affects their daily life. During the study, 41 individuals 75 years of age and older (mean age, 83 years) who had a cancer diagnosed within the past 5 years were interviewed in their homes. After verbatim transcription, the interviews were analyzed with latent content analysis. Four main categories were identified: 1) living with cancer means bodily, mental, social, and existential experiences; 2) being aware of the disease or not; 3) handling of daily life; 4) feeling affirmation or rejection from healthcare professionals. Experiences of daily life with cancer were influenced by the combination of old age, comorbidities, and the perception of current and previous life. This combination more or less affected all aspects of life. The power to choose the approach to daily life with cancer, the disease, and its treatment proved to be crucial for handling cancer and the outcome. It seems that the main role for healthcare professionals is to empower the older person to choose for himself or herself. Furthermore, it seems to be important that healthcare professionals support older persons in their choices, whether they choose to take an active part in understanding the disease and handling of daily life or whether they decide to be more passive and hand themselves over to the healthcare system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged / psychology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cost of Illness
  • Existentialism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / nursing
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Oncology Nursing / methods
  • Patient Participation
  • Power, Psychological
  • Rejection, Psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden