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Life After Cancer: Living With Risk

Wilkins, Krista L. PhD, RN; Woodgate, Roberta L. PhD, RN

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e318208f2b3

Background: Recent research shows that cancer survivors are at greater risk of developing cancer than the general population. Although recommended, many cancer survivors receive no regular cancer screening. Cancer survivors' perceptions of their second cancer risk are, in part, suspected to influence their participation in cancer screening.

Objective: This study was conducted to explore how cancer survivors define and interpret second cancer risk.

Methods: An interpretive descriptive approach was taken whereby semistructured interviews were conducted with 22 cancer survivors (16 women and 6 men) drawn from a provincial cancer registry. The sample ranged in age from 19 to 87 years. The cancer history of the participants varied. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method of data analysis.

Results: The overall theme, "life after cancer-living with risk," described cancer survivors' sense that risk is now a part of their everyday lives. Two themes emerged from the data that speak to how cancer survivors lived with second cancer risk: (1) thinking about second risk and (2) living with risk: a family affair.

Conclusions: Effective risk communication to support the decisions made by cancer survivors with respect to cancer screening is warranted.

Implications for Practice: Study results provide foundational knowledge about the nature of second cancer risk that may be used to develop and refine standards for survivorship care including how second cancer risk can be best managed.

Author Affiliation: Faculty of Nursing, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton (Dr Wilkins); and Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg (Dr Woodgate), Canada.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Krista L. Wilkins, PhD, RN, Faculty of Nursing, University of New Brunswick, Room 155 MacLaggan Hall, 33 Dineen Dr, Fredericton, NB, Canada E3B 5A3 (

Accepted for publication November 26, 2010.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.