Life after cancer: living with risk

Cancer Nurs. Nov-Dec 2011;34(6):487-94. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e318208f2b3.


Background: Recent research shows that cancer survivors are at greater risk of developing cancer than the general population. Although recommended, many cancer survivors receive no regular cancer screening. Cancer survivors' perceptions of their second cancer risk are, in part, suspected to influence their participation in cancer screening.

Objective: This study was conducted to explore how cancer survivors define and interpret second cancer risk.

Methods: An interpretive descriptive approach was taken whereby semistructured interviews were conducted with 22 cancer survivors (16 women and 6 men) drawn from a provincial cancer registry. The sample ranged in age from 19 to 87 years. The cancer history of the participants varied. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method of data analysis.

Results: The overall theme, "life after cancer-living with risk," described cancer survivors' sense that risk is now a part of their everyday lives. Two themes emerged from the data that speak to how cancer survivors lived with second cancer risk: (1) thinking about second risk and (2) living with risk: a family affair.

Conclusions: Effective risk communication to support the decisions made by cancer survivors with respect to cancer screening is warranted.

Implications for practice: Study results provide foundational knowledge about the nature of second cancer risk that may be used to develop and refine standards for survivorship care including how second cancer risk can be best managed.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Young Adult