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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details

Atkinson, S. & Rubinelli, S. Narrative in cancer research and policy: voice, knowledge and context. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology. 2012;84:S11-S16.

Author(s) from Durham


The potential applications of narrative within medical practice are attracting increased interest. In particular, personal narratives afford rich insights into how encounters with cancer and the associated provision of care are experienced, understood and represented. Such first-person accounts are practically useful in indicating improvements to cancer care and politically significant in providing a means to enable the patient voice and legitimising experiential knowledge alongside a biomedical paradigm. However, personal narratives are necessarily and always constructed in particular social and political contexts and through existing ‘meta-narratives’ relating to cancer, health, illness and a flourishing life. The present paper first examines work on personal cancer narratives to critically review the opportunities for narrative within cancer care. We then reflect on the crucial role of meta-narratives of cancer as framings within which personal narratives can be both enabled and constrained.