Motivations for cancer history disclosure among young adult cancer survivors

  • Julie EasleyEmail author



To gain an in-depth understanding of the motivations for cancer history disclosure and/or non-disclosure among young adult cancer survivors.


Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with breast and testicular cancer survivors diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 39 from across Canada.


Twenty-eight young adult cancer survivors (16 female; 12 male) participated in this study. Analysis of the interviews revealed two basic motivational systems for disclosure at play: approach-focused motivations geared towards a positive outcome (desire for understanding, acceptance, support and to promote cancer awareness) and avoidance-focused motivations which are geared towards avoiding a negative outcome (fear of discrimination/stigmatization, unwanted attention, pity, loss of privacy, and rejection). Those exhibiting approach-focused motivations were more likely to disclose than those expressing avoidance-focused motivations. Participants also described a series of situational/contextual factors (social/cultural context, relevance, situation/timing, person disclosing, audience/confidant, and time passed since cancer diagnosis) which had the potential to change or influence the disclosure decision despite overarching motivations to disclose or not.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Gaining a better understanding of the cancer history disclosure decision processes of young adult cancer survivors can help them to better adapt and socially reintegrate back into their pre-cancer lives after the completion of treatment. Acknowledging and understanding the disclosure decision process and communication challenges faced by young cancer survivors can also be beneficial to healthcare professionals in the development and provision of better support interventions and informational resources to help improve psychosocial well-being after cancer.


Self-disclosure Young adult cancer Qualitative Constructivist grounded theory 



This study was funded in part through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there are no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by the author.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Family Medicine Teaching UnitDalhousie UniversityFrederictonCanada

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