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What is it like living with the diagnosis of cancer?


Solveig Sægrov, Sogn og Fjordane University College, Faculty of Health Studies, N-6800 Førde, Norway (e-mail:


This article discusses in-depth interviews of 12 persons, who had been diagnosed for cancer from 6 months to 3 years earlier, concerning what it is like to live with the diagnosis of cancer. The persons interviewed were aged 43–70 years, and 11 of the 12 had received successful radical treatment; one patient was treated for symptoms, but with an uncertain future development. This investigation shows that the period of waiting from the first suspicion of cancer until diagnosis confirmation of the disease was a period of great stress, and that the following period until the commencement of treatment was also a very difficult one. The investigation also shows that there was no follow-up of individual patients concerning their need to talk about their difficult new life-situation brought about by the disease. Receiving the diagnosis of cancer was remembered as being a very dramatic experience for the informants. The informants were satisfied with the medical treatment they received, but they also feel that there should have been some kind of programme available to care for their psycho-social needs. In the rehabilitation phase, they feel that they were left to their own resources; during this period, they felt physically and mentally drained, and they did not have the knowledge to tackle their new and difficult life-situation. The threat of new cancer cells being discovered is always with patients. Attending the check-ups is also described as a period of stress.