Exploring the Experiences of University Students with a History of Cancer: A Pilot Study

  • Julie S. ArminEmail author
  • Catherine A. Marshall
  • Sue Kroeger


This exploratory pilot study aims to provide preliminary data describing the experiences of university student cancer survivors, quantify their connection to the campus Disability Resource Center, and assess the feasibility of conducting research with this population. In this descriptive study of cancer survivor students at one large university in the southwestern U.S., online survey respondents with a history of cancer (N = 19) reported cognitive, emotional, and physical limitations that affected their educational experience. The majority (78.9%) of our participants were children, adolescents, or young adults (up to age 39) when diagnosed with cancer; all others were diagnosed between 40 and 60 years old. We found that students living with cancer have short- and long-term impairments, including memory issues that made academic performance difficult. These effects led some students to cope individually while others sought support from institutional entities or instructors. Here we document survivor experiences and propose next steps in research, which includes an intervention that builds on our preliminary findings and uses the positive deviance model.


Higher education Disability services Cognitive impairments Physical impairments Cancer survivorship 



We want to thank the students who responded to our online survey in which they shared their concerns and experiences with cancer.

Funding Information

Dr. Armin’s work on this project was supported by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities – University Affiliated Programs, Grant No. 90DD0822-02-00.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The University of Arizona Institutional Review Board approved this project and deemed it exempt.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family & Community Medicine and Sonoran University Center for Excellence in Disabilities, College of MedicineUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies, College of EducationUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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