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Why does Cancer have a Stigma.

lp1964's picture
Posts: 1240
Joined: Jun 2013

As probably most of you know, the name "cancer" for this illness comes from the ancient Greek doctors, who noticed that women with advanced breast cancer, the veins around their breast had a shape like crab legs.

But why does cancer have such a stigma amoungst other degenerative disseases like multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cardiovascular disease, different deadly syndromes etc.

It is true that cancer has almost 100% mortality rate, but so do the others. Cancer kills pretty fast. It spreads and disables just like the others.

But why does society look at cancer differently?


Posts: 127
Joined: Nov 2012

that is a good question. My opinion is because cancer is a scary word. Almost everyone knows some one who has passed away from this terrible disease. It's like the boogy man in your closet. You don't want to look because it might be in there. Same with cancer. Thats why I think breast cancer is such a popular charity. Any place other than the breasts are considered ugly. I know it sucks. 

maglets's picture
Posts: 2596
Joined: Jun 2006

good question laz and one we who have been fighting for years have felt for years.  I remember so well after being diagnosed the great silence that descended around me....people really do not know what to say. And then in treatment that feeling of only you....the whole world going on and only you isolated and strange with your cancer.  The word, the disease has enormous power!!!,, In a way it almost gives you  power because people who do not have cancer seem so shy so overcome to discuss the monster.....

and that is why this is such a FINE PLACE.....because we talk openly...we share we discuss we say the word out loud....blah blah blah she said.....to answer your questionEmbarassed I do not know why cancer has such enormous power but I believe it does. When we first hear our diagnosis it flattens us and shames us and terrifies us...the stigma has been placed upon us....and gosh!!!! Bowel Colon Rectal.....all for shame. how come we could not have some more sexy disease?


Lovekitties's picture
Posts: 3362
Joined: Jan 2010

In the United States, past generations have held many medical conditions as "taboo" to mention or disucss.  It is only in my life time that many have been openly discussed. 

A woman was whispered to be "in an interesting condition" or "with child". 

Persons with mental disease or defect were hidden away.

Persons born with Down Syndrom were instutuionalized or allowed to die.

Persons with tuburculosis were put in hospitals for the rest of their days.

Persons, who may well have had cancer, may have been diagnosed with "wasteing disease" and watched die with no medical help.

There are so many more examples.

In the past many believed that diseases which killed were caused by a person's actions or behaviors, much like AIDS was.  Being unexplainable as to cause made it a "curse".

Even in today's "enlightened society", where we promote cancer awareness, it causes fear to strike...why are more people getting it...can it happen to me...what causes it.  To discuss it invites it to strike.

As much as many of us dislike all the attention breast cancer gets, we do owe that attention a thank you, because once it became a topic which could be discussed, other cancers also came a little bit out of the dark closet.  While breast cancer and lung cancer due to smoking have gotten a large share of the publicity, at least now we have more information available about all cancers and places like this site where we can freely and openly discuss the disease and how to deal with it and its treatments.

Marie who loves kitties

Posts: 2215
Joined: Oct 2011

Good question LAZ. I think because cancer effects so many more millions of people. Your forgot to mention what I think is the worst disease of all that gets virtually no attention. ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease). Everytime I see a story on someone who is suffering from that aweful disease actually makes me feel thankful about my situation. At least most of us have a fighting chance and we don't have to experience total paralsis.

geotina's picture
Posts: 2123
Joined: Oct 2009

Why does it have a stigma?   FEAR

Take care - Tina

marbleotis's picture
Posts: 714
Joined: Mar 2012

Well I think years ago it was not a good outcome, so I do not agree with the 100% mortality rate.  Today many, many people are cured, in remission or living with cancer managing it as they go.  Modern medicine has come a long way.  Everyone on these sites know it and lives it.

Now for society........ - I am convinced people think it is "contagious".  If I get too close I will get it also.  They look with pity then move on.  They do not know that cancer takes from you in every way.  We are fighters!

I do not tell people anymore because it is not who I am, it is what I had.  Those that know are shocked because I do not look like it.  I take really good care of myself, am active and enjoy life (finally).  cancer taught me that.  I also hate excuses, boy do I hate people saying, blah-blah-blah about why they did/did not do something.  I make no excuses - I just do it.

I guess what I am trying to say is , yes you are right if you noticed this.  People around you will change (for the good and bad) when you have cancer.

We make our new-normal.  This does not come with an instruction manual, so I am making it up as I go.


Good post Laz!

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