Get access

Cancer Survivor Identity and Quality of Life


  • Brad J. Zebrack ph d, msw, mph

    1. Brad J. Zebrack, PhD, MSW, MPH, Post-doctoral research fellow, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Research, and the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Los Angeles, CA.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • This work was completed at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI.

  • Dr. Zebrack also is a long-term survivor of Hodgkin's disease.

  • Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by National Institute of Aging Training Grant No. T32-AG0017, National Cancer Institute Grant No. 3P30CA46592-10S2, and an American Cancer Society Post-Master's Training Grant in Clinical Oncology Social Work.

Address for correspondence: Brad J. Zebrack, PhD, MSW, MPH, Department of Pediatrics, Pediatric Pain Program, UCLA School of Medicine, MDCC #22-464, Box 951752, 10833 LeConte Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1752.


Purpose: The purpose of this article is to propose a framework for enhancing an understanding of quality of life among cancer survivors that takes into account individuals' subjective experiences and attributions of self as they relate to their own experience with cancer.

Overview: This review of a small yet burgeoning cancer survivorship literature posits that there is room to expand the theoretical context for understanding cancer and its impact on quality of life by assuming that the experience of cancer involves changes in social roles and identity. In turn, changes in the way cancer survivors see themselves in relation to the world, including the ability to carry out roles and responsibilities, may affect quality of life. This perspective suggests that a cancer diagnosis initiates a survival trajectory and a social role that extends over the remainder of one's life, regardless of life expectancy.

clinical Implications: Expanding the understanding of quality of life and the factors that contribute to it should help subsequent investigations of who might benefit from which psychosocial support interventions provided when (i.e., during early diagnostic stage, treatment stage, or both or in the long term). Equipped with this understanding, clinicians and agencies providing services to cancer survivors and their families can develop appropriate supportive interventions that facilitate and enhance quality of life.

Get access to the full text of this article