The 3-Phase Process in the Cancer Experience of Adolescents and Young Adults

Nathalie Belpame, Marijke C Kars, Dimitri Beeckman, Elsie Decoene, Marijke Quaghebeur, Ann Van Hecke, Sofie Verhaeghe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: When confronted with cancer, adolescents and young adults (AYAs) enter a psychosocial trajectory. Previous research has acknowledged the importance of care adjusted to the specific needs of AYAs. To develop AYA-focused care, in-depth knowledge about the experiences of AYAs with cancer is necessary.

OBJECTIVE: The purposes of this study were to discover the psychosocial experiences of and their meanings for AYAs enduring cancer, as well as its treatment and follow-up, and to capture the basic social psychological process that shaped these experiences.

METHODS: This was a qualitative study in which individual semistructured interviews were conducted with 23 participants aged 15 to 25 years.

RESULTS: A 3-phase process was identified, which demonstrated alterations in the AYAs' experiences and their underlying meanings: (1) maintaining normal life was essential, (2) normal life was slipping away, and (3) evolving toward a new normal life after treatment. Certain core dynamics were present in these 3 phases. Throughout the cancer trajectory, the AYAs attempted to maintain control, redefine the self, and incorporate their cancer experience to the long-term course of life and had varying expectations of their social networks.

CONCLUSIONS: Understanding the process that AYAs with cancer go through and taking into account their experiences can facilitate better psychosocial care for this emotionally vulnerable population.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Healthcare professionals need to take a patient-centered approach, with a focus on communication, to meet the needs of AYAs throughout the cancer trajectory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E11-E20
JournalCancer Nursing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Adolescents and young adults
  • Cancer
  • Nursing
  • Psychosocial experiences and needs
  • Qualitative research
  • The basic social psychological process


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