A double whammy: Health promotion among cancer survivors with preexisting functional limitations

Deborah L. Volker, Heather Becker, Sook Jung Kang, Vicki Kullberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose/Objectives: To explore the experience of living with a preexisting functional disability and a cancer diagnosis and to identify strategies that promote health in the growing population of cancer survivors. Research Approach: Qualitative, descriptive. Setting: Four sites in the United States. Participants: 19 female cancer survivors with preexisting disabling conditions. Methodologic Approach: Four focus groups were conducted. The group discussions were audio recorded and transcribed and analyzed using content analysis techniques. Findings: Analytic categories included living with a cancer diagnosis, health-promotion strategies, and wellness program development for survivors with preexisting functional limitations. Participants described many challenges associated with managing a cancer diagnosis on top of living with a chronic disabling functional limitation. They identified strategies to maintain health and topics in health-promotion programs tailored for this unique group of cancer survivors. Conclusions: The "double whammy" of a cancer diagnosis for people with preexisting functional limitations requires modification of health-promotion strategies and programs to promote wellness in this group of cancer survivors. Interpretation: Nurses and other healthcare providers must attend to patients' preexisting conditions as well as the challenges of the physical, emotional, social, and economic sequelae of a cancer diagnosis. Knowledge Translation: Cancer survivors with preexisting functional disabilities had difficulties finding cancer care providers who could manage their unique needs. That may be because some cancer-care providers are inadequately prepared to care for patients with cancer who have complex preexisting conditions. Cancer survivors with preexisting conditions may benefit from health-promotion programs that emphasize self-advocacy strategies, management of the economic impact of multiple diagnoses, and wellness activities adapted to their unique functional limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-71
Number of pages8
JournalOncology Nursing Forum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


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