Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This study was undertaken to examine the illness-related adjustment experiences of adults who have survived five years beyond the crisis and trauma of cancer diagnosis and the recommended medical treatment. The study explores the transition from being a cancer patient to becoming a long-term survivor. The study's purpose is to increase understanding of the growing population of long-term cancer survivors currently numbering more than 10 million in the US. This exploratory study involved 12 participants living in or near the Boston, Massachusetts area. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants who were diagnosed at or after age 35, with a cancer considered life-limiting, and had pursued conventional medical treatment. Participants had been free from cancer, cancer-treatment, and/or recurrence for at least five years. Results of the study aligned with established cancer research around the challenges of the physical recovery process, the persistence of anxiety, the benefits of social support, feelings of gratitude, and pursuit of meaning-making. Findings specific to long-term survivors included a "live in the moment" philosophy and expressions of a conscious choice to survive. Findings showed that all participants experienced post-treatment distress and more than half of the sample experienced altered views of themselves and their sense of the future.


iii, 60 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2007. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 54-55).