The War of Words in the War on Cancer: Contemporary Discursive Contestations Around Breast, Bladder, and Skin Cancers

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Publication Type dissertation
School or College College of Humanities
Department Communication
Author Overholt, Stacey Marie
Title The War of Words in the War on Cancer: Contemporary Discursive Contestations Around Breast, Bladder, and Skin Cancers
Date 2017
Description Despite decades of awareness and research, cancer continues to grow as a threat to public health. This prevalence indicates the continued importance of attending to how cancer is covered and constructed in public health campaigns ("official" discourses) and mainstream news coverage ("common" discourses), particularly since the latter frequently shapes public perceptions about the disease and the former educates populations about the disease. In this dissertation, I assess and evaluate the differences and similarities between official and common discourses of health, paying particular attention to the existence, location, and mobilization of fissures between these discourses, especially as these fissures could indicate the pervasive discourses around particular cancers that patients are likely to have encountered and that may influence their perceptions of the disease, their experiences, and appropriate treatment. I am guided by four questions: (a) What are the differences, if any, between official and common health discourses of, respectively, breast, bladder, and skin cancers? (b) How are health providers, patients, and specific cancers rhetorically characterized, respectively, within and across official and common discourses? (c) How are individual and structural responsibility (or unaccountability) rhetorically mobilized across these different health conditions? (d) What are the implications of these findings for health information, education, promotion, and intervention efforts? I answer these questions through a critical rhetorical analysis of two distinct sets of texts for each cancer type under examination here: official/institutional discourses broadly disseminated to the public about these cancers and mainstream news coverage. Analysis of these texts suggest that, in each case, official discourses characterize cancer, patients, and the medical establishment in ways that are distinct from common discourses. In doing so, this study contributes to extant health communication literature by continuing to parse established knowledge about assumptions of patient responsibility and the role of structural entities in the fight against cancer. This study also complicates the official/common binary in order to apprehend a potential middle ground discourse between official and vernacular discourses, thus resurfacing and redefining the notion of the "common" in order to account for the continued blurring of the line between media producer and consumer.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Communication; Public health; Oncology
Dissertation Name Doctor of Philosophy
Language eng
Rights Management (c) Stacey Marie Overholt
Format Medium application/pdf
ARK ark:/87278/s61k43cc
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2019-10-17
Date Modified 2019-10-18
ID 1469464
Reference URL
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