The “Survivor” Term After Breast Cancer: Is There a Better Expression? « Medical Lessons

From Dr. Elaine Schattner’s Medical Lessons Blog:

“A lot of women, me included, have major physical changes upon under­going treatment for BC. My hair was curly for most of a year. My breasts are gone. My bones are thinner and I’m estrogen-deprived. Sound depressing? It is, for as many as 30 to 40 percent of women at some point after their diag­nosis. It’s not a minor expe­rience in the physical, emo­tional or life-changing sense.

“TV aside, the problem with the “sur­vivor” term is that, maybe, it implies some sort of heroism or strength. But as an oncol­ogist who happens to have had good insurance, knowledge and friends in the field, I just see it as, largely, the luck of the draw: there’s no reason for me to survive while another woman struggles and suc­cumbs to metastatic disease.

“I can’t deny to my readers, family, friends and others that I’ve had breast cancer, because it does affect my writing, feelings, capa­bil­ities and outlook. But I wish there were a better term for my status.”

–Dr. Elaine Schattner, writing in her Medical Lessons Blog

See:  The “Survivor” Term After Breast Cancer: Is There a Better Expression? « Medical Lessons.


5 thoughts on “The “Survivor” Term After Breast Cancer: Is There a Better Expression? « Medical Lessons

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for starting this discussion. I’m a psychologist who’s been through bc treatment, and I, too, question the use of the term, “survivor.” It is problematic in so many ways.

    Hoping we can begin a discussion around this topic. I’m working hard on this very issue at Sencha Living, a website to support full, healthy living as well as perspective, sanity, and well-being for women and friends and family members dealing with a bc diagnosis.

    Hope you’ll be in touch.

  2. Alicia says:

    It’s hard to embrace the survivor label when all you want to do is lay down and nap after months or years of cancer treatment. I know exactly what you’re feeling – until a better term comes along, I’ll stick with survivor. Love your writing. thanks for sharing!

  3. katherinembc says:

    Hi Alicia
    Thanks for reading!
    Just to clarify, the excerpt above is from Dr. Elaine Schattner’s blog:

    Check it out! (I am going to change the copy above to (hopefully) clarify that.)

  4. Jennifer says:

    I really appreciate the discussion and my sensitivity to the experience of those with metastatic disease. In my blog today, I wrote about the need for Prevention: Prevention of Occurrence, Prevention of Recurrence and Prevention of Death (for those with metastatic b.c.). If you get a chance, I hope you’ll follow some of what we’re doing for women, health, and wholeness, at

    Many thanks, Jennifer

  5. Jennifer says:

    I meant to say “my increasing sensitivity” in the above. Oops!

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