Are You a Survivor? (cont.)
This is a question that I addressed just a few days ago when my emphasis was on the choice not to use that word or to self-identify as a "survivor." I have just seen this article from the Journal of Cancer Survivorship; it describes a study in which 78 percent of women thought of themselves in this way. More proof, as though we needed it, that there is lots of room in this world for varying opinions, and we are all entitled to our own. Here is the abstract; write to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like the whole article.
A phoenix rising: who considers herself a "survivor" after a diagnosis of breast cancer?
Christina H. Jagielski & Sarah T. Hawley & Kimberly Corbin & Marisa C. Weiss & Jennifer J. Griggs
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate factors associated with patients' identification of themselves as survivors after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Methods: A self-administered survey was deployed through the nonprofit organization Breastcancer.org. As part of a larger study, we collected data on treatment, mental health, perceived prognosis, concerns about recurrence, and the question, "Do you consider yourself a survivor of breast cancer?"
Results: Of the 629 survey respondents, 492 (78%) considered themselves survivors of breast cancer. Factors independently associated with an affirmative response were believing that one's prognosis was "very good" compared to others (p0<0.001), recalling being told that treatment was curative (p00.04), having better mental health (p00.002), and having received chemotherapy (p00.01).
Conclusions and implications for cancer survivors: The disparate factors associated with the identification of oneself as a survivor-both the perception of having a very good prognosis and having received chemotherapy (reflecting high-risk disease rather than a good prognosis)-are intriguing. Clinicians caring for women with breast cancer should be sensitive to the fact that not everyone considers herself a survivor. Addressing transitions at the end of treatment and during the follow-up period may be challenging for clinicians and patients alike. Awareness of the complexities of survivor identification may help clinicians in counseling their patients.