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Peter Vedsted

Cancer-before-cancer: Mythologies of cancer in everyday life

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Approaching cancer presence in everyday life as mythologies, the paper unfolds what cancer is and how cancer potentialities are enacted and embodied in the context of contemporary regimes of anticipation. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a suburban Danish middle-class community among people who were not immediately afflicted by cancer, we describe different and paradoxical cancer mythologies and show how they provide multiple ways of understanding, anticipating and dealing with cancer in everyday life. Special attention is paid to the relation between biomedically informed notions of symptoms and bodily processes and a ghostly and muted presence of cancer, particularly when faced with more tangible cancer worries. We explore how contemporary cancer disease control strategies emphasising ‘symptom awareness’ interweave with and add to cancer mythology. It is suggested that they at the same time carry moral significance as a directory for practice (be aware of early signs of cancer and seek care in time), and create an unintended illusion of certainty that does not correspond with everyday embodied forms of uncertainty and ambiguity (is this an early sign of cancer or just something normal?). We argue that paying attention to the continuous cultural configurations of cancer ‘before cancer’ will increase understanding of how the public health construction of ‘cancer awareness’ relates to everyday health practices such as symptom experience and healthcare seeking.
Bidragets oversatte titelKræft før kræft: Kræftmytologier i hverdagslivet
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftMAT Medicine Anthropology Theory
ISSN2405-691X
StatusUdgivet - 18 dec. 2018

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