Cancer as biographical disruption: constructions of living with cancer



Hubbard G & Forbat L (2012) Cancer as biographical disruption: constructions of living with cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer, 20 (9), pp. 2033-2040.

Purpose: From a cancer survivor perspective, the purpose of this paper is to explore what has changed in their lives that they attribute to the disease. The rationale for the study is that evidence of the extent to which cancer disrupts people's lives in the longer term is contradictory. Methods: Written accounts from 40 cancer survivors were analysed using interpretative methods. The researchers drew on the concept of biographical disruption as a framework for analysis. Results: Cancer survivors construct cancer as a biographically disruptive event with ongoing physical and psychosocial impacts. Cancer is constructed as a permanent threat to life which is responsible for increasing their awareness of their own mortality and invoking positive changes to self. These formulations of living with cancer were found across a range of participants, including those who defined themselves as currently free of cancer, those who had recurrence, those who had been diagnosed 5 years ago and those who had been free of cancer for a long time. Conclusions: This study adds to the body of literature exploring how to enhance supportive care for cancer survivors by reflecting on biographical disruption and continuity, and the complexities within individual constructions of changes in life that they attribute to cancer. Cancer survivors should be given opportunities to articulate the impact of cancer, thus giving legitimate space to talk about cancer's ongoing resonance on life so that problems and difficulties are not dismissed or trivialised.

Cancer survivor; Cancer survivorship; Biographical disruption

Supportive Care in Cancer: Volume 20, Issue 9

Publication date30/09/2012
Date accepted by journal01/11/2011

People (1)


Professor Liz Forbat

Professor Liz Forbat

Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences