Is it Time to Reconsider the Term Cancer Survivor?

July 2019 | Berry, Leonard L.


Purpose: To improve understanding of how people diagnosed with cancer perceive the term “cancer survivor” and what influences those perceptions.
Design: Patients’ reactions to the term were surveyed quantitatively and qualitatively.
Sample: Women who have primarily experienced breast cancer belonging to The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation’s Army of Women.
Methods: An online survey including fixed-alternative and open-ended questions.
Conclusions: Using the blanket term “survivor” to label a diverse group is problematic; although the term offers a positive identity for some, others reject it or find it offensive, at
least for patients like those represented in this study. If cancer patients are going to be labeled, they should choose the one that is most empowering and reflective of their experience.
Implications for Psychosocial Providers: Language used in providing care or describing patients is controllable. If evidence exists that a particular term has the potential to inflict psychological harm, why use the term?



  • Scott W. Davis
  • Andrea Godfrey Fllynn
  • Jeffrey Landercasper
  • Katie A. Deming


Journal of Psychosocial Oncology