B0007784 Lung cancer cells
Lung Cancer Cell by wellcome imagesCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Last time I spoke to you about wording and public health, and the unintentional impact that can have on people. I want to continue on that theme today, and talk about what is perhaps one of the most pervasive, and more controversial language choices that we as as a society have made: the military language we use around cancer. Often, the media (and by extension, society) describe someone with cancer as a “warrior” who “battles” cancer. This language isn’t rare, and has been around since the mid-70s when Susan Sontag wrote her book “Illness as a Metaphor.” Research by Seale (2001) states:

News stories commonly feature sports celebrities with cancer, as well as sporting activities by ordinary people with cancer, designed to generate a sense of (usually successful) personal struggle.

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