Cancer survivorship and identity among long-term survivors

Cancer Invest. 2007 Dec;25(8):758-65. doi: 10.1080/07357900600896323. Epub 2007 Oct 18.


This article examines the concept of survivorship and the adoption of the "survivor identity" by those who have been treated for cancer. First, we review recent and growing theoretical and empirical literatures on cancer and identity and identity transformation. With that review as background, we present our own research findings from 2 separate studies on survivorship and identity. Our data suggest that most older adults who have survived cancer for at least 5 years, identify as cancer survivors and/or as ex-patients rather than as victims or patients. Most also view being a survivor as an important part of who they are, do not see themselves as less whole, and are not overly concerned about how others view them. To the degree that a survivor orientation is associated with better mental health outcomes and encourages health promotion and appropriate symptom monitoring, it can reinforce the effects of the quality medical care provided by clinical staff. The support of clinicians encouraging this orientation, where it is appropriate, may further enhance the quality of life of individuals who living with a history of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Self Concept
  • Survival Rate
  • Survivors / psychology*