Personal Narrative: Raising Awareness of Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors in Similarly Aged University Students

J Adolesc Young Adult Oncol. 2019 Aug;8(4):434-441. doi: 10.1089/jayao.2018.0131. Epub 2019 Apr 30.


Purpose: As part of a programmatic educational initiative, we developed a personal narrative presentation, embedded with evidence-based data, to raise awareness of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) who have been diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 15 and 39 years among similarly aged university students. The narrative encompassed the cancer care continuum from signs of the disease through survivorship and incorporated psychosocial aspects of the experience. Methods: The presenter, diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 25 years in 2007, interwove AYA data with her narrative in a series of 26 invited lectures given over 2 academic years, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. Students were asked to provide anonymous open-ended feedback. Six hundred thirteen forms were collected and retrospectively dually coded and analyzed. Results: The majority of students (97%) referenced at least one of the presentation's three objectives: (1) build awareness of the AYA demographic; (2) encourage a personal health care focus; and (3) expand awareness of the far-reaching impact of cancer (i.e., psychological, social, and medical) both during and beyond the treatment phase. Format- and/or content-related suggestions and potential benefits of hearing the narrative also were reported. Conclusion: The use of personal narrative to raise awareness of the AYA cancer experience in an academic setting is both feasible and effective. Students demonstrated a new or enhanced understanding of AYA cancer and its biopsychosocial implications. We provide evidence to inform the design of awareness interventions directed at similarly aged university students.

Keywords: cancer awareness; education; personal narrative; psychosocial; university students.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Narration
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Personal Narratives as Topic
  • Quality of Life
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult