Culture and Cancer Care: Anthropological Insights in Oncology

Culture and Cancer Care: Anthropological Insights in Oncology

Culture and Cancer Care: Anthropological Insights in Oncology

Culture and Cancer Care: Anthropological Insights in Oncology

Synopsis

Cancer is more than a biological disease. Cultural factors are involved at every stage in the journey through cancer, from prevention to palliative care. Based upon recent studies from the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, Culture and Cancer Care examines a number of cultural themes in relation to cancer, including:The disparity of rates of cancer among different ethnic groupsCulture and screeningBreaking bad news and communicationCultural variations in emotional responses to cancerCultural variability in cancer treatments and the influence on prognosisPalliative care across culturesThe book focuses on three main themes: culture, race and ethnicity and their relationship to cancer; the cultural context of sickness and help-seeking behaviour; the shift from biomedicine to alternative forms of treatment. Throughout the book, a critical stance is adopted towards race and culture, focusing on the relation between these concepts and social deprivation. Culture and Cancer Care is key reading for students, researchers and practitioners in oncology and palliative care, offering a clear analysis of cultural differences with regard to illness and health care, as well as suggestions of how ethnic disparities can be overcome both at a political and local level, through cultural understanding and culturally appropriate health education.

Excerpt

In his classic work The Sociological Imagination, published in 1959, C. Wright Mills explained some of the processes whereby a phenomenon thought to be uniquely individual and personally bounded in character can come to be seen as a matter for wider concern–requiring the mobilizations of collective action and planning and thereby attracting the interests of the social analyst. Just such a transformation, from what Mills called 'private trouble' to 'public issue', is evident in the phenomenon of cancer in recent decades. For some time now, the experience of cancer has been shifting– from a disease to be endured by individual patients, with fortitude and a sense of fatalism, to become a site of wider public and professional concern as well as a specialist area for clinical attention. To understand such developments, we must examine the changing social construction of cancer as the 'dread disease' of modern culture, and move from there to an exploration of the ways in which it has been colonized by professionals, patients, policy makers and legislators. Within such a matrix, curative treatments, pain and symptom relief, and social reform are each expressed as parts of a 'cancer world' of increasing complexity and differentiation.

Causes and consequences are key dimensions in the social analysis of cancer. The former is illustrated in the proliferation of cancer and 'anti-cancer' societies since the beginnings of the twentieth century; in the rise of the oncology and radiotherapy specialisms; and in the increasing visibility of patients' experiences of cancer within public discourse and the mass media. How politics shapes what we know and do not know about cancer is an example of the second. Meanwhile, the incidence and prevalence of cancer continue to grow apace in the poorer countries of the world, and the global 'burden' of the disease is a major preoccupation for epidemiologists and strategists despite a falling public health interest in non-communicable disease.

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