Cancer in public perception, part 2

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Cancer in public perception, part 2


Cancer support

The social perception of cancer largely determines quality of life during illness. Attitudes towards people with this type of illness depend mainly on the knowledge we have and our attitudes towards them. Nevertheless, stereotypes, which are constructed on the basis of information reaching the individual, play a very significant role in the perception of sick people. Hence the high importance of health education and the transmission of accurate knowledge.


Quality of life with cancer

The state of medical knowledge today does not allow an accurate prognosis for the patient, hence the emerging state of uncertainty and feelings of powerlessness. Cancer can therefore become a cause of psychological crisis for both the patient and those around them. Emotions such as fear, anger, aggression and irritability may emerge. However, due to the variability of the disease course, there is often also the hope of recovery, which is confronted with the fear of negative consequences of treatment. Many times the cancer process involves radical surgery (as in breast cancer cases). The psychological trauma and anxiety associated with continuing to function in the illness is a very strong element that determines self-perception and one's social roles. In the case of a woman losing her breast (an attribute of femininity), there is the fear of family breakdown caused by the departure of her partner. Physicality in this context plays a significant role, especially in the area of sexuality [2].

The framework set by cancer

For a very long time, a significant proportion of people felt a kind of 'terror' about cancer, largely due to the belief that there was no chance of a cure, that they would suffer and risk dying. Because the causes of cancer are so numerous, they are a great mystery and cause terror - and are often seen as a punishment. Many people with cancer are perceived as weak-willed, people who are not careful and who do not weigh up the risks. This is what sometimes causes social non-acceptance and exclusion. This is due to the fact that social opinion is based on stereotypes - mainly in terms of the incurability of cancer or the uncertain future of such people [3].

photo: panthermedia

For a long time, consideration of chronic diseases did not touch on cancer, and most attention was given to conditions such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. Sociological research carried out in chronic diseases has focused on the individual experience of illness and the social adaptation of sufferers. Much attention has been paid here to the problem of social exclusion of such people and the consequences of their mistreatment, manifested in social marginalisation or aggressive behaviour [3].