Image result for image cartoon don quixoteDon’t talk of ‘Fighting’ when dealing with cancer

Told I had to ‘fight’ cancer, when all I wanted to do was follow my treatment plan and work at getting better, I didn’t think of it as a fight. As The Guardian says, “language is intended to motivate people and make them more vigilant at spotting symptoms and getting them examined”.  But when people talk about fighting cancer I get the giggles;  it reminds me of Don Quixote tilting at windmils. Both a useless waste of energy.

Arms-flailing windmill sails remind me of the way the NHS can send one round-and-round when dealing with problems,. The NHS also talk about cancer being a journey – too right – but not in the way they mean.  To my mind it suggests pointless dead ends and time-wasting cancellations because hospitals can’t get their act together.

At last it seems research is on our side.  The latest, according to David Hauser, a psychologist at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada says “battle metaphors could have a negative impact on how people think about cancer, and those thoughts could undermine people’s intentions to engage in healthy behaviours,”

Having cancer is not a fight or a battle

Hauser, and collaborator Norbert Schwarz, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, have studied the impact of war metaphors in cancer care after noticing how common the language had become. For example, instead of simply having cancer, patients were invaded by enemy cells that were fought with the latest ammunition in the oncologist’s armoury, in a battle many brave heroes lost.

“People use these metaphors thinking they have a beneficial impact, or at least no negative impact, but nobody has actually studied it,” Hauser told the Guardian.

In four separate experiments involving nearly 1,000 generally healthy volunteers, the researchers looked at how people’s opinions varied on reading passages about cancer patients that included battle metaphors, journey metaphors, or no metaphors at all. The battle metaphors included words such as “fight”, “attack” and invaded”.

And while the language is intended to motivate people and make them more vigilant at spotting symptoms and getting them examined, the study found no evidence this was the case.

“Our work suggests metaphors {such battle – fight – attack – invader} could have a negative impact on how people think about cancer and those thoughts could undermine people’s intentions to engage in healthy behaviours,” said Hauser.  

Too right – it just makes me blxxxdy minded.  And it seems others might feel the same.

So let’s get back to common sense and sensible language. Stop the fighting talk and give us practical, evidence-based treatment using our language.  And leave Don Quixote to fight non-existent ‘enemies’.  

 

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