A Qualitative Focus Group Study to Illuminate the Lived Emotional and Social Impacts of Cancer and Its Treatment on Young Adults

David Victorson*, Sofia F. Garcia, Stacy Sanford, Mallory A. Snyder, Sara Lampert, John M. Salsman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Among the many challenges that exist among young adults with cancer, those that intersect psychosocial domains have only begun to be addressed by medical, research, and advocacy communities. While some have attempted to empirically document the psychosocial burden of adolescents and young adults (AYAs), there is a paucity of research exploring this phenomenon from the perspective of AYAs themselves. The purpose of this study is to better understand the lived experiences of young adult cancer survivors and the psychosocial impacts that cancer has had on their lives. Methods: We used qualitative focus group methodologies to elicit positive and negative psychosocial impacts of the cancer experience in a young adult cancer sample. Results: We conducted three separate focus groups (n = 16). The average age of participants was 33 and majority were female (75%), Caucasian (50%), and married (44%). The most common cancer diagnoses were breast (38%), colon (13%), and acute myeloid leukemia (13%). Participants reported experiencing multiple emotional and social impacts such as stress, sadness, and fear; identity changes; utilizing different coping strategies; challenges discussing cancer; feeling pressure to be better; feeling abandoned, misunderstood, or invisible; and experiencing role reversals with family members. Conclusions: Participants reported experiencing several emotional and social impacts of cancer on their lives, both negative and positive. Our findings are important for oncology clinical practice and survivorship research activities with young adults, especially given the presence of these impacts over the long term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-659
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of adolescent and young adult oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • cancer survivorship
  • emotional well-being
  • qualitative methods
  • social well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Oncology

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