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J Psychosoc Oncol. 2019 Jul-Aug;37(4):413-426. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2018.1522411. Epub 2019 Jan 7.

Is it time to reconsider the term "cancer survivor"?

Author information

1
a Mays Business School , Texas A&M University , College Station , Texas , USA.
2
b Institute for Healthcare Improvement , Boston , Massachusetts , USA.
3
c Marilyn Davies College of Business, University of Houston - Downtown , Houston , Texas , USA.
4
d University of San Diego School of Business , San Diego , California , USA.
5
e Norma J. Vinger Center for Breast Care , Gundersen Medical Foundation and Gundersen Health System , La Crosse , Wisconsin , USA.
6
f Kaiser Permanente Northwest , Center for Health Research , Portland , Oregon , USA.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

To improve understanding of how people diagnosed with cancer perceive the term "cancer survivor" and what influences those perceptions.

DESIGN:

Patients' reactions to the term were surveyed quantitatively and qualitatively.

SAMPLE:

Women who have primarily experienced breast cancer belonging to The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation's Army of Women.

METHODS:

An online survey including fixed-alternative and open-ended questions.

CONCLUSIONS:

Using the blanket term "survivor" to label a diverse group is problematic; although the term offers a positive identity for some, others reject it or find it offensive, at least for patients like those represented in this study. If cancer patients are going to be labeled, they should choose the one that is most empowering and reflective of their experience. Implications for Psychosocial Providers: Language used in providing care or describing patients is controllable. If evidence exists that a particular term has the potential to inflict psychological harm, why use the term?

KEYWORDS:

age/life course; breast cancer type; older adults; qualitative research methods; quantitative research methods; survivorship

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