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Adolescents With Cancer: Experience of Life and How It Could Be Made Easier

Hokkanen, Hannele MNSc, RN; Eriksson, Elina PhD, RN; Ahonen, Outi MNSc, RN; Salantera, Sanna PhD, RN


This study is about what adolescents with cancer think about their life situation, the support they get, and the information they receive about their illness. The data for this qualitative and descriptive study were collected in 3 focus group interviews with 20 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years attending a cancer adjustment camp. Interpretation was based on the method of inductive content analysis. The adolescents' experiences of their current situation were analyzed into 5 categories: views on life here and now, negative experiences of self because of the illness, resources recognized in self, difficulties caused by the illness in relation to life around them, and resources identified in the world around. They made very little, if any, conscious effort to plan ahead for the future. The information received by the adolescents concerned their illness and its treatment here and now, various practical matters, as well as the future impacts of the illness and its treatments. Most of this information focused on the here and now, whereas the adolescents' information needs were mainly oriented to the future. As for the adolescents' chances to take part in making decisions about their care and life, the analysis yielded 6 categories: joint decision making, inadequate chances for decision making, independent decision making, illusion of decision making, reluctant to make decisions, and excluded from decision making. Finally, the adolescents' hopes for improvement were focused on staff activities, physical care facilities, chances to discuss and work through their experiences of the illness, and the support received from society.

Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia, Helsinki (Ms Hokkanen and Dr Eriksson), Laurea Polytechnic, Lohja (Ms Ahonen), and the Department of Nursing, University of Turku, Turku (Dr Salantera), Finland.

Corresponding author: Hannele Hokkanen, MNSc, RN, Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia, Tukholmankatu 10, 00290 Helsinki, Finland (e-mail:

Accepted for publication March 24, 2004.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.