Expressive metaphors in cancer narratives

Cancer Nurs. 2002 Jun;25(3):230-5. doi: 10.1097/00002820-200206000-00011.


This article presents and interprets illness narratives, told by patients treated for cancer. The aim is to discuss the meaning of cancer metaphors. The interpretation focuses on the relationships of metaphors to bodily experience and to social and cultural levels. The experience of cancer and cancer therapy obviously involve the patient's body. To comprehend what is happening is a process full of uncertainty and obscurity. Metaphors, such as cancer "eating," are widespread and persistent while the meaning of that metaphor today mirrors new scientific and lay explanations of cancer and cancer treatment. Personal newly created metaphors express threatening experiences in which fear of losing oneself and fear of death are involved. Ambivalent hope in relation to treatment and caregivers is expressed. Creating new metaphors involves imaginatively using the available concepts and metaphors. Narrative communication gives access to patients' experiences of an unwanted and painful physiologic process leading to forced embodiment of sickness. Patients want consolation and must overcome solitude by articulating experience, being listened to, and, in this way, recreating and strengthening identity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metaphor*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Sweden