Embodied metaphor in women's narratives about their experiences with cancer

Health Commun. 2002;14(2):139-65. doi: 10.1207/S15327027HC1402_1.


Many scholars and medical professionals argue over the importance of metaphor in thinking about, and speaking of, cancer and other illnesses. Our study presents an analysis of the metaphors used by 6 women in their narratives of their experiences with cancer. We claim from our analyses that metaphorical talk about cancer reflects enduring metaphorical patterns of thought. Women used multiple, sometimes contradictory metaphors to conceptualize their complex cancer experiences. Many of their metaphors used to understand cancer are actually based on ordinary embodied experiences such that people still refer to the healthy body in trying to understand cancer even when their own bodies have been disrupted. We discuss the importance of our findings for understanding the relation between language and thought in regard to human illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anecdotes as Topic*
  • California
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Metaphor*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Survivors / psychology
  • Women / psychology*