Life beyond cancer: women’s experiences 5 years after treatment for gynaecological cancer
Article first published online: 9 NOV 2010
© 2010 The Authors. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences © 2010 Nordic College of Caring Science
Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Volume 24, Issue 4, pages 799–807, December 2010
How to Cite
Sekse, R. J. T., Raaheim, M., Blaaka, G. and Gjengedal, E. (2010), Life beyond cancer: women’s experiences 5 years after treatment for gynaecological cancer. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 24: 799–807. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2010.00778.x
- Issue published online: 9 NOV 2010
- Article first published online: 9 NOV 2010
- Submitted 23 February 2009, Accepted 31 December 2009
- long-term survivors;
- gynaecological cancer;
- lived experience;
- cancer care
Scand J Caring Sci; 2010; 24; 799–807 Life beyond cancer: Women’s experiences 5 years after treatment for gynaecological cancer
The number of long-term survivors after cancer is increasing, mainly as a consequence of more efficient treatment. This creates a need for knowledge about experiences of life after cancer. The aim of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of lived experience of long-term cancer survivors and how they experienced cancer care.
A qualitative study was performed, based on 32 in-depth interviews with 16 women declared as long-term survivors, aged 39–66. The first interview was made 5 years after treatment and the second a year later. The study has a phenomenological–hermeneutical approach in which the women’s own experiences are the basis for understanding their life-world.
The long-term surviving women experienced profound changes in their lives and had to adapt to new ways of living. Three core themes were identified: living with tension between personal growth and fear of recurrence: the women spoke of a deep gratitude for being alive and of basic values that had become revitalized. They also lived with a preparedness for recurrence of cancer. Living in a changed female body: the removal of reproductive organs raised questions about sexual life and difficulties related to menopause. Feeling left alone – not receiving enough information and guidance after treatment: the process of sorting things out, handling anxiety, bodily changes and menopause were described as a lonesome journey, existentially and psycho-socially.
The findings are discussed in relation to Heidegger’s perspective of anxiety towards death, existential loneliness and humans as self-interpreting beings.
Surviving cancer entails living with profound life-changes, demanding as well as enriching. Existing follow-up regimes need to sharpen focus on psycho-social aspects, information and guidance. Additional follow-up programmes, focusing solely on the individual woman and her specific needs, are necessary.