The Problem with the Cancer ‘Battle’


The terminology surrounding the cancer journey is often associated with a “battle” and can misconstrue the experience of treatment.

Language is an important tool when it comes to living with cancer. The terminology used when referring to an individual’s experience with the disease can incite a range of emotions and can often be misconstrued.

Dr. Mark Lewis, of Intermountain Healthcare, is also a survivor. In a recent interview with CURE®, Lewis discussed why the use of the word “battle” can be polarizing when referring to someone’s cancer journey, and why sometimes the idea of opting to forego treatment is the bravest decision of all.


One of the problems I have with language around cancer is, whether patients choose or not, there's often a lot of talk about ‘battle.’

In fact, in almost every obituary I saw about Chadwick Boseman mentioned him battling cancer. You know, if you accept the fighting metaphor, that's great, but it's not for everybody. And what I don't like about it is it implies some lack of courage, or spirit, when patients either die, or, quite reasonably sometimes, if they choose not to pursue chemotherapy.

Sometimes I think the bravest decision I see is someone who, against the recommendation and pressure from their family, says, ‘You know what, I've listened to you, doc, I've heard about the risks and benefits. I just want to live my life, however long that's going to be, and I want to maximize its quality.’

That, in itself, is a very courageous decision, in my opinion.

Related Videos
Dr. Andrea Apolo in an interview with CURE
Dr. Kim in an interview with CURE
Dr. Nguyen, from Stanford Health, in an interview with CURE
Dr. Barzi in an interview with CURE
Sue Friedman in an interview with CURE
Dr. Giles in an interview with CURE
Related Content