An explorative study using qualitative data collection methods was used to look at the adaptation issues faced by Chinese survivors of gynaecological cancers. Eighteen women who were free from illness and between 2 and 16 years post-diagnosis participated. Content analysis of the data revealed that cancer and its treatment led to a positive revival of these women as they re-evaluated their life, started treasuring family relationships, improved their mood and became more sensitive to other people's needs. However, they also described problems with marital relationships, concerns about the future of their children, sexuality and femininity, loss of fertility and discomfort due to pain and weakness. A third of the sample reported that their husbands had extramarital affairs. Despite this, women, especially those who had good communication with their partners, commented that they maintained a loving relationship. Cultural beliefs and misconceptions about sexual functioning were also depicted as affecting adaptation to illness. Long-term psychosocial care may help these women to adapt better to the demands of the illness, especially sexual and psychosexual rehabilitation, as sexual problems were reported by all women in the study. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.