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Rigshospitalet - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital
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Everyday life challenges among adolescent and young adult survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia: An in-depth qualitative study

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OBJECTIVE: As survival rates increase, growing numbers of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) survivors are at risk for somatic and psychosocial late effects. Adolescent and young adult (AYA) survivors represent a distinct and vulnerable group. This study aimed to explore how AYA survivors of childhood ALL experience everyday life after cancer while adjusting to the potential impact of prior disease and treatment.

METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were performed with survivors aged 15-22 years. Criterion-based homogenous purposive sampling was used to identify similarities within the group. Data were analyzed using an inductive, thematic approach.

RESULTS: Data saturation occurred after 18 interviews. Identified themes included the post-chemo body, negotiating identities, and disruption. More than 80% reported physical or cognitive late effects, but survivors adapted to these and had a positive view on own health. However, a co-existing experience of frailty persisted. Social disruption during treatment had a negative impact on social relations even years following cure. Identity issues revolved around the paradox of seeking recognition for their cancer-related experiences, while also wanting to be treated like everyone else. Some participants aged 18-22 years experienced delayed reactions and a new, but unmet, need to process the past.

CONCLUSIONS: AYA survivors of childhood ALL adapt well to their new life situations, but many experience ongoing cancer-related disruptions and experience not being fully understood. We suggest exploration and verbalization of these issues alongside somatic follow-up around the age of 16-18 years to support the AYA survivors during their transition into adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsycho-Oncology
Volume29
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1630-1637
Number of pages8
ISSN1057-9249
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

    Research areas

  • adolescent, cancer survivors, leukemia, long-term adverse effects, pediatrics, psycho-oncology, qualitative research, quality of life, survivorship, young adult

ID: 61822890