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Telling patients to 'fight' cancer puts them under pressure

Jan 15, 2019

Telling patients to 'fight' cancer puts them under pressure

Cancer patients should not be told to “fight” their disease because doing so puts them under “exhausting pressure”, Macmillan Cancer Support has said.

cancer

The charity warned that framing cancer in terms of a battle leaves patients feeling guilty for admitting fear and often prevents them from planning properly for their death.

Macmillan said thousands of sufferers were unnecessarily dying in hospital rather than their own home each year because of a “gulf in communication” towards the end of life. Experts last night called for a cultural change around cancer so patients no longer feel compelled to put on a brave face.

Research commissioned by the charity reveals nearly two-thirds of sufferers never talk to anyone about their fears of dying due to the pressure to see themselves as a “fighter”. Meanwhile, 28% reported feelings of guilt if they cannot stay positive about their disease.

Adrienne Betteley, an end-of-life care advisor at Macmillan, said: “We know that “battling” against cancer can help some people remain upbeat about their disease, but for others, the effort of keeping up a brave face is exhausting and unhelpful in the long-term."

The report said the pressure to stay positive and support people to “fight” cancer was one of the biggest barriers to holding conversations about dying, even in patients who had already received a terminal diagnosis.

We need to let people define their own experiences without using language that might create a barrier to vital conversations about dying,” said Ms Betteley. For health and social care professionals, there is often a fear that the person is not ready to talk about dying. We know, however, that making plans while receiving treatment allows people with cancer to retain a sense of control during an emotionally turbulent time.”

 

What do you think about this? Do you think it is time to change the language surrounding cancer? Many people on Twitter talked about how you "don't lose a battle against a heart attack" so why do we use this language with cancer?

avatar JosephineO

Author: JosephineO, Community Manager

Josephine is the Community Manager of the UK with a Master’s in Publishing. She is a strong believer in the power of words and strives to make Carenity UK a comforting, vibrant and informative community for both patients and their families.

Comments

on 1/26/19

@Hidden username Thank you for sharing and I think that mindset is beneficial... that your life cant be just about cancer... that it has to be more than that. Thank you for sharing; I am sure someone will find your small advice very beneficial when they implement it.

on 1/26/19

Fighting is relentless. Found out on Sept. 2015. Now getting put on oral meds. I take one day at a time  it helps to talk to people in the same boat that truly understand  

on 1/27/19

@Hidden username  thanks for your kind response. 

on 7/25/19

@Hidden username sorry cant believe it cones down to having a “will to live or not “,  we are talking about Cancer not a cold.  

 I do believe your attitude on life , your personality, can help you live a better life, with or without cancer.  

on 7/25/19

I think we should allow the patient to use the terms they want, instead of others putting words in the patients mouth.

I am surviving. I am not fighting anything, though my body is. Some days surviving is harder than others, even without me mentally fighting. For me to say I am fighting is an exhausting statement. I am an alpha personality which means I go all out in whatever I do. To fight and lose certain battles means (to me) that I must fight harder or I am inadequate for the task at hand.

For me, “surviving” is a term that takes the pressure of of me mentally, as well as relieves the pressure off of those around me who do not know exactly what to say.

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