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Earlier this month On The Media podcast replayed The Cancer Show. Host Brooke Gladstone interviewed five guests on topics ranging from the history of cancer, to what makes a great cancer story in the media to new words that have been created to better explain the cancer experience. Read the highlights and check out the podcast in its entirety!
A Brief Biography of Cancer
Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee author of The Emperor of All Maladies, a biography of cancer, started off the show by giving a brief history of cancer which dates back to ancient times. He shared that the oldest reference to cancer is found in the oldest medical document we possess as humans; an apparent case of breast cancer in Egypt from 2500BC. Listen to the podcast to learn about the link between cancer and the Greco-Persian Wars.
Perception vs. Reality
Jakob Jensen, PhD is a researcher at the University of Utah and specializes in cancer communication. During this segment, Jensen explained his findings from a study that looked at cancer coverage in the top 50 newspapers over the course of one year. He found that the public’s ranking of common cancers corresponded more to the amount of coverage of those cancers than to the actual incidence rates. Two examples were the ranking of Leukemia which the public ranked fourth most common when it is actually tenth and Bladder cancer which the public tended to rate last, but is the sixth most common cancer.
What Makes a Great Disease Story?
David Grover was 8 years old when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2003. His family retells the story of the massive amount of media attention they received and how it waned after the tumor was removed. The late effects from the treatments David received are also discussed in this segment.
The War on Prevention
David Hauser, co-author of the study The War on Prevention: Bellicose Cancer Metaphors Hurt (Some) Prevention Intentions suggested the war on cancer metaphor is unsettling and potentially unhealthy. He referenced the popularity of the war on cancer message as displayed in books on food which fight cancer, the appearance of the metaphor in national research organizations and the popularity of its usage in scientific literature. In a couple of studies he found exposure to the metaphor dampens people’s thoughts on limiting or restraining themselves, which is not the ideal mentality to have in regards to cancer prevention. Listen to hear more about these interesting findings.
Speaking in Tongues
Susan Gubar who is living with ovarian cancer and is author of Memoir of a Debulked Woman spoke about the language around cancer. She stated the language tends to implicitly blame the patient and suggested alternative words to incorporate into the discourse: Reoccurrence rather than Relapse or Treatment failed rather than Patient failed treatment. She went on to point out the topsy turvy nature of some cancer terminology: a positive result means something negative and an unremarkable scan is great news. Listen to the podcast to hear new word choices offered by Gubar and the attitudes towards some cancer terms interlaced throughout the broadcast by listeners.
Click here to listen to the broadcast in segments or in its entirety. We welcome you to share your thoughts with us.
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