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Cancer survivor’s experiences and concerns during and after adjuvant treatment: An interview study

Connie Timmermann, Jette Ammentorp, Regner Birkelund


Background, aims and objectives: Early detection and improved treatment possibilities have led to a rising number of long-term cancer survivors who have receiving adjuvant treatment. Moreover, the timeline from discovering cancer until treatment is initiated is very short. This entails sudden changes in their everyday life and many crucial decisions related to their treatment. We know little about how cancer survivors experience their adjuvant course of treatment and the following months after its completion. The aim of this study was thus to explore such experiences during this specific period of time. Methods: The study is based on a phenomenological-hermeneutic design using qualitative semi-structured interviews to achieve a deeper understanding of cancer survivors’ experiences. Eleven patients who had ended their adjuvant treatment in a Danish Oncological Outdoor Clinic participated at the time of their first control, approximately after 3 months.

Results: Our main findings show that the patients, as a starting point, were grateful for the fast treatment procedure. Some explained how this helped them to keep their existential fears and worries at bay. However, others found it extremely difficult to keep up emotionally and cognitively and their existential concerns were further reinforced because of the fast treatment process. Those who experienced an emotional and cognitive challenge also described being in a state of shock and feeling ‘paralysed by the news’ of cancer.

Conclusion: Our conclusions point to how existentially, emotionally and cognitively challenged cancer survivors are and how profound and challenging their experiences are during this particular period of time. Importantly, cancer survivors experience a great deal of fear and worries of recurrence; being told that they are free from cancer is not experienced as being free from fears and worries.


Adjuvant treatment, anxiety, cancer survivors, clinical pathways, comorbidity, empowerment, existential suffering, faith, hope, insecurity, interview, loss of control, pain, person-centered healthcare, phenomenological-hermeneutic investigation, shock, su

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