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Anthropol Med. 2018 Jun 18:1-15. doi: 10.1080/13648470.2017.1391172. [Epub ahead of print]

The cancer may come back: experiencing and managing worries of relapse in a North Norwegian village after treatment.

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a NAFKAM, Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences , UiT , Tromsø , Norway.
b General Practice Research Unit, Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences , UiT , Tromsø , Norway.
c Center For Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care, Research Unit for General Practice, Department of Anthropology , Aarhus University , Aarhus , Denmark.
d Department of Health and Care Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences , UiT , Tromsø , Norway.


Little is known about how people living in the aftermath of cancer treatment experience and manage worries about possible signs of cancer relapse, not as an individual enterprise but as socially embedded management. One-year ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in a coastal village of under 3000 inhabitants in northern Norway. Ten villagers who had undergone cancer treatment from six months to five years earlier were the main informants. During fieldwork, the first author conducted qualitative, semi-structured monthly interviews with them, and participated in their everyday activities and relationships, including families, friends and co-villagers. In this article, we contemplate human emotions as arising in contexts of transactions, capable of creating social realities. By including this perspective, we highlight how people who recover from cancer construct and experience worry about possible relapse in relation to close family members, friends and co-villagers in the socially closely-knit and relatively isolated village. These emotional experiences emerge through relationships with others have communicative characteristics and take place in interaction with the social environment of their village. While informants attempt to protect family members by avoiding sharing worries with them, they express the need to share their worries within friendships. However, they experience both comfort and challenges in managing their worries in relation to acquaintances in the village. Overall, the study enhances understanding of the social embeddedness of emotions in everyday life, by revealing how worries of relapse of cancer configure and relate to various social contexts.


Anthropology of emotions; Northern Norway; aftermath of cancer treatment; relapse; worries

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