Defining cancer survivorship: a more transparent approach is needed

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There is a lack of a consistent, operational definition of what it means to be a cancer survivor despite widespread use of the term. The term carries positive connotations of ‘beating' cancer, but some people living past cancer do not identify with this portrayal.


The term ‘cancer survivor' was first developed and used in the USA for advocacy reasons and to promote research and care of this growing population. Some organizations define a cancer survivor from the time of cancer diagnosis. Researcher and policy makers may use different definitions based on their research or funding priorities.


The use of the term ‘cancer survivor', its acceptability and its interpretation amongst people living past a cancer diagnosis and primary treatment is relatively understudied. There may be numerous interpretations of cancer survivorship amongst people living past cancer, and some individuals may not relate to the term.

Discussion and implications for cancer survivors

Instead of working towards a universal definition of cancer survivorship, we suggest that researchers and policy makers use operational descriptions when discussing the diverse population of people living past a cancer diagnosis.

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