Who is a cancer survivor?
“Cancer survivor” means different things to different people, and moving from patient to survivor is different for everyone. Some see themselves as a survivor as soon as they are diagnosed with cancer, others see themselves as a survivor when active treatment stops or when they become free from signs of cancer.
For many people, survivor is a strong and positive term. Others feel guilty for surviving or feel the term implies that they will struggle to cope with cancer in the future. Some people do not like being labelled at all and do not identify as a cancer survivor. Others prefer to look forward to a future that is not focused on their past cancer experience. You may find it difficult to relate to the term survivor. Instead, you may refer to yourself as someone who has had cancer or is living with cancer.
However you feel about the label, you may wonder: what now? Research has shown that getting information about what to expect after treatment can help you prepare for this change.
Here, we use the term survivor to mean anyone who has finished their active cancer treatment. No matter the words you choose to use, we hope this information will be helpful.
|Improvements in diagnosing and treating cancer have led to an increase in the number of people surviving and living with cancer. There are about 1 million people living in Australia today who have been diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their life.|
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Dr Haryana Dhillon, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Medical Psychology & Evidence-based Decision-making, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, NSW; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Jessica Barbon, Dietitian, Southern Adelaide Health Network, SA; Dr Anna Burger, Liaison Psychiatrist and Senior Staff Specialist, Psycho-oncology Clinic, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, ACT; Elizabeth Dillon, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Prof Paul Glare, Chair in Pain Medicineand Director, Pain Management Research Institute, University of Sydney, NSW; Nico le Kinnane, Nurse Coordinator, Gynaecology Services, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Amanda Piper, Manager, Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Kyle Smith, Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, WA; Aaron Tan, Consumer; Dr Kate Webber, Medical Oncologist and Research Director, National Centre for Cancer Survivorship, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
Life after cancer treatment
Programs and support for people who have finished treatment
Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand
ENRICH – a free healthy lifestyle program
A face-to-face exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors