Cancer diagnosis as discursive capture: Phenomenological repercussions of being
positioned within dominant constructions of cancer
- paper discuss challenges of being diagnosed with cancer, reviews dominant discourses about cancer in
western industrialize cultures
-looks at implications how cancer may be experienced and how it may be lived with (social/psychological
-this paper is concerned with the social and psychological consequences of being positioned within some
of the dominant discourse associated with cancer diagnosis in contemporary english-speaking western
industrialized cultures ie. UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand
-author reflects on own experiences as a cancer patient, trying to make sense of situation and what
resource were available to her, how people treated the cancer topic, how she understood it
The role of diagnosis
- research into the social processes associated with diagnosis has explored the place of diagnosis in the
institution of medicine, the social framing of disease definitions, the means by which diagnosis confers
authority on medicine, and how that authority is challenged.
- focus on how a medical diagnosis positions the patient in relation to ‘healthy’ others in society rather
than in relation to medical professionals which appears to be a more common focus in social research in
The role of Discourse
- according to Foucault, " Foucauldian point of view, discourses make available to us particular
(historically and culturally specific) ways of ordering and making sense of the world including ourselves.
They make available discursive spaces, or 'positions’, which we can occupy and this has implications for
how others will perceive us and how we will experience ourselves.
- discursive context for cancer: people experience being diagnosed with cancer includes increasingly
frequent media coverage of cancer 'survivor stories 'of celebrities and ordinary people widely available
public health/health promotion materials concerned with cancer prevention and lifestyle advice as well as
popularizations of scientific articles in the media
-Susan Suntag: giving a disease moral meaning is a punitive process which positions those who are
diagnosed with the disease as culpable, as tainted, as shamed.
Discursive constructions of cancer and its meanings
The cultural imperative to 'Think Positively
- Thinking positively means demonstrating faith in the belief that things will turn out well and that every
problem can be solved. In relation to a cancer diagnosis, death as a possible outcome is not to be
acknowledged or talked about.
- cancer is constructed as a ‘wake-up call’ to rethink one’s life, an opportunity to make a fresh start and to
live a better, healthier li