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NCRI 2016 | How we talk about cancer – why words matter

Elena Semino • 6 Nov 2016

Elena Semino, PhD, of Lancaster University, UK, provides an overview of a session on ‘How we talk about cancer’, which was prompted by an increasing interest in the kind of linguistic choices we make and the methods that are used to talk about cancer and their implications. There have been a lot of debates on this topic and in particular, on metaphors to do with fighting cancer, which are used in the media and by cancer charities. Some people have suggested that these metaphors are not helpful for patients. Prof. Semino provides an overview of the session, which has four talks that focus on how we talk about cancer from different perspectives and different stages in the cancer experience. The first paper is about metaphors and cancer prevention and is explored from a psychological perspective. The second paper is from a writer who has personal experience with cancer and explores how he resists the language that is commonly used when we talk about cancer. For the third paper, patients were interviewed to provide information about their participation in cancer research. The final paper is about cancer survivorship and looks at how people, who have been treated for cancer, are living after cancer and how they react to different kinds of language that is used around them. Recorded at the 2016 National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Conference in Liverpool, UK.

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