“CANCER SURVIVOR.” Many people who receive a cancer diagnosis hear this term applied to them. Does it convey hopefulness and accomplishment? Or is it inadequate and even hurtful? A study published Jan. 7 in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology indicates that while some people embrace being cancer survivors, others do not identify with the title.
The term “cancer survivor” has had many definitions over the years. Physician Fitzhugh Mullan used the term in an influential 1985 essay, defining survival as beginning “at the point of diagnosis.” … Today, many organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, say that people are cancer survivors from diagnosis through the end of life. However, others define the term as referring only to people who have completed treatment, or only to people who have no evidence of disease. In practice, the label is used for people at all stages of all cancer types.
“It really interested me because in marketing, we’re trained early on … that when you use one word to describe a heterogeneous group of people, you’re asking for trouble,” says Leonard Berry, a marketing professor at Texas A&M University in College Station who co-authored the study.