Meaning making in cancer survivors: a focus group study.

N. van der Spek, J. Vos, C.F. van Uden-Kraan, W. Breitbart, R.A.E.M. Tollenaar, P. Cuijpers, I.M. de Leeuw

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background:Confrontation with a life-threatening disease like cancer can evoke existential distress, which can trigger a search for meaning in people after having survived this disease.Methods:In an effort to gain more insight in the meaning making process, we conducted four focus groups with 23 cancer survivors on this topic. Participants responded to questions about experienced meaning making, perceived changes in meaning making after cancer and the perceived need for help in this area.Results:Most frequently mentioned meaning making themes were relationships and experiences. We found that, in general, cancer survivors experienced enhanced meaning after cancer through relationships, experiences, resilience, goal-orientation and leaving a legacy. Some participants, however, also said to have (also) experienced a loss of meaning in their lives through experiences, social roles, relationships and uncertainties about the future.Conclusions:The results indicated that there is a group of cancer survivors that has succeeded in meaning making efforts, and experienced sometimes even more meaning in life than before diagnosis, while there is also a considerable group of survivors that struggled with meaning making and has an unmet need for help with that. The results of this study contribute to develop a meaning centered intervention for cancer survivors. © 2013 van der Spek et al.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere76089
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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