The 3-Phase Process in the Cancer Experience of Adolescents and Young Adults

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Abstract

Background:

When confronted with cancer, adolescents and young adults (AYAs) enter a psychosocial trajectory. Previous research has acknowledged the importance of care adjusted to the specific needs of AYAs. To develop AYA-focused care, in-depth knowledge about the experiences of AYAs with cancer is necessary.

Objective:

The purposes of this study were to discover the psychosocial experiences of and their meanings for AYAs enduring cancer, as well as its treatment and follow-up, and to capture the basic social psychological process that shaped these experiences.

Methods:

This was a qualitative study in which individual semistructured interviews were conducted with 23 participants aged 15 to 25 years.

Results:

A 3-phase process was identified, which demonstrated alterations in the AYAs’ experiences and their underlying meanings: (1) maintaining normal life was essential, (2) normal life was slipping away, and (3) evolving toward a new normal life after treatment. Certain core dynamics were present in these 3 phases. Throughout the cancer trajectory, the AYAs attempted to maintain control, redefine the self, and incorporate their cancer experience to the long-term course of life and had varying expectations of their social networks.

Conclusions:

Understanding the process that AYAs with cancer go through and taking into account their experiences can facilitate better psychosocial care for this emotionally vulnerable population.

Implications for Practice:

Healthcare professionals need to take a patient-centered approach, with a focus on communication, to meet the needs of AYAs throughout the cancer trajectory.

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