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Patient Educ Couns. 1999 Jan;36(1):33-45.

Breast cancer, personality and the feminine role.

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Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway.


This article argues that it may be illuminating to look at breast cancer also from a cultural point of view. It is built around a hypothesis which proposes that, on a certain level, breast cancer can be seen as an attempt by women to rid themselves of the breast as a symbol of some of the essential aspects of their femininity, as feminine qualities are seen as of little import in today's industrialized Western world. The argumentation begins by showing that there is a certain type of personality which is prone to cancer: One of the main characteristics of this personality is either the repression or the inability to express or feel anger. Furthermore, studies on sex-roles and defence mechanisms have shown that persons with feminine sex-role orientations use more repressive, self-blaming defence mechanisms. The author finally goes on to discuss the psychic mechanisms thought to lie behind somatization and cancer as a psychosomatic disease.

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