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Rigshospitalet - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

"On Your Own": Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors' Experience of Managing Return to Secondary or Higher Education in Denmark

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PURPOSE: As a consequence of cancer treatment, many adolescents and young adults (AYA) patients are required to take leave or face setbacks from their education. While most AYA cancer survivors and survivors of childhood cancer are capable of successfully returning to the educational system, unsuccessful returns place AYA at an increased risk of social isolation, stigmatization, and financial burden. The perspective of AYA cancer survivors who have returned to education is valuable to understand the challenges faced and resources available throughout this transition. The purpose of this study was to explore AYA cancer survivors' management of returning to secondary or higher education.

METHODS: Semistructured interviews were conducted with AYA cancer survivors between the ages of 15 and 25 at diagnosis pursuing secondary or higher education (n = 9). Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using Malterud's Systemic Text Condensation.

RESULTS: Five themes were found: (Theme 1) Symptoms and Late Effects, (Theme 2) Navigating the System, (Theme 3) Lack of Understanding from Peers, (Theme 4) Unofficial Support, and (Theme 5) Changed Perspectives. AYA cancer survivors described facing challenges from the physical late effects of cancer treatment, as well as misunderstanding from municipal systems and peer groups. However, they stated that assistance was provided from unofficial sources of support, such as teachers and parents.

CONCLUSIONS: AYA cancer survivors face social and systemic challenges throughout the return to education. The findings of this study support previous research suggesting that late effects and misunderstanding from peers and academic and municipal institutions may play a role in impacting social outcomes and academic performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)618-625
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 54873917