Survivors’ Dilemma: Young Adult Cancer Survivors’ Perspectives of Work-Related Goals

Lauren Victoria Ghazal, John Merriman, Sheila Judge Santacroce, Victoria Vaughan Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Young adult cancer survivors have significant work-related challenges, including interruptions to education and employment milestones, which may affect work-related goals (WRGs). The study purpose was to explore posttreatment perspectives of WRGs in a sample of young adult hematologic cancer survivors. Methods: This qualitative descriptive study used social media to recruit eligible cancer survivors (young adults working or in school at the time of cancer diagnosis). Data were collected through telephone semi-structured interviews and analyzed using directed content analysis, followed by thematic content analysis to identify themes. Findings: The sample (N = 40) were mostly female (63.5%), White (75%), and diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma (57.5%); most worked in professional (40%) or health care (23%) roles. The overarching theme, “Survivors’ Dilemma,” highlights a changed perspective on work-related fulfillment and financial obligations, capturing survivors’ decision-making process regarding work. Three subthemes illustrated questions that participants contemplated as they examined how their WRGs had changed: (a) Self-identity: Do I want to do this work? (b) Perceived health and work ability: Can I do this work? and (c) Financial toxicity: Can I afford to/not to do this work? Conclusions/Application to Practice: Participants experienced a state of dilemma around their WRGs, weighing areas around self-identity, perceived health and work ability, and financial toxicity. Findings suggest occupational health nurses should be aware of challenges surrounding WRGs, including how goals may change following a cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the potential stressors involved in the Survivors’ Dilemma. Occupational health nurses should assess for these issues and refer young survivors to employee and financial assistance programs, as necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)506-516
Number of pages11
JournalWorkplace Health and Safety
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • cancer
  • qualitative
  • work ability
  • work goals
  • young workers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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