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The omnipresence of cancer

Shaha, M. (2003). The omnipresence of cancer. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The incidence of colorectal cancer has increased over the past few decades. Reasons for the increase have been associated with malnutrition (Almendingen et al., 2002; Bain et al., 2002). A need was identified to explore the experience of having received a diagnosis of colorectal cancer and what this means to the person concerned. An empirical phenomenological study was undertaken grounded in Heidegger’s Ontology of Dasein as presented in his seminal work 'Being and Time’ (1993a; 1996) to investigate The Da-sein of Colorectal Cancer. Seven patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer were interviewed over a time-span of thirteen months. The patients were recruited from three hospitals in the German speaking part of Switzerland. At the end of data collection patients specifically pointed out the benefit of having had the opportunity to participate in the interviews. They said the interviews provided them with an opportunity to talk about their illness openly and engage in catharsis.

Data analysis employing Colaizzi’s eight step process as cited by Haase (1987: 66-67) elicited one core category - The Omnipresence of Cancer - and two sub-categories, Toward Authentic Dasein and Mapping Out The Future. Each of the sub-categories comprised three constructs that were identified as Uncertainty, Transitoriness and Locus of Control. Toward Authentic Dasein represents the Fear and Anxiety (Heidegger, 1993a: 140ff; 1993a: 184ff; 1996: 179ff; 1996: 228ff) patients experienced. Mapping Out The Future represents the Existential Understanding (Heidegger, 1993a: 143ff; 1996: 183ff) of Dasein. By associating these findings from the study with Heidegger’s Ontology of Dasein (1993a; 1996) The Omnipresence of Cancer, a new theory, emerged. The Omnipresence of Cancer is a descriptive-explanatory, middle-range theory due to its close association with Heidegger’s Ontology of Dasein (1993a; 1996). It provides a perspective on the experience of having received a diagnosis of cancer and what this means for the person concerned.

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is threatening and provokes deep Fear and Anxiety. Patients experience Uncertainty from the onset of symptoms throughout treatment that extends beyond the conclusion of the treatments. By being given a diagnosis of cancer, patients are confronted with their mortality. They consider their potential demise. In doing so, some choose to move Toward a more Authentic Dasein.

Coping with the gravity of the illness involves patients’ Locus of Control. Initially, patients delegate control to healthcare professionals as a coping strategy. Gradually patients rebel against the delegation of control and work toward regaining it. Moving from an external Locus of Control toward an internal Locus of Control is key in Mapping Out The Future. Initial Uncertainty is partly resolved, but new worries arise. In order to successfully manage the return to a familiar routine, patients develop a variety coping strategies in their awareness of the Transitory nature of life. Patients want to return to normality. Therefore, gaining an internal Locus of Control becomes crucial. They realise that cancer is a lifelong disease that stays with them as long as they live. Whenever individuals who have once been diagnosed with cancer are confronted with another health problem, the thought of cancer - whether justified or not - is at the forefront of their minds. Patients consider themselves belonging to an illness group. Cancer is Omnipresent.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Shaha thesis 2003 PDF-A.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
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