At home in hospital? Interaction and stigma in people affected by cancer

Kate Wilson, Karen A. Luker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Social research conducted in cancer hospitals has tended to focus on interaction between patients and staff, and studies of interaction amongst people with cancer often centre on group therapy and patient-patient support mediated by health professionals. Informal interaction between patients and fellow patients, and their carers/visitors, occurs in cancer hospitals every day but has remained largely unanalysed, particularly in the case of visitors. In this paper, based on data from 71 in-depth interviews, we compare patient and carer perceptions of interacting with fellow patients/visitors in a cancer centre with their perceptions of interacting in the outside world. We apply Erving Goffman's theories on stigma to the data and argue that these theories have both relevance and currency. The outside world can be seen as a 'civil place' where people with cancer often encountered difficulties such as undue admiration, uneasiness, avoidance and lack of tact, whereas the cancer centre appears to have been a 'back place' where, for most patients, stigmatisation was not an issue, and they could 'get on with it' in the company of fellow patients and their visitors. However, some groups of patients experienced social isolation in the hospital or seemed to be assigned to the lower strata of cancer patient society. We conclude that patients who are outside the informal support system in cancer hospitals may have psychosocial difficulties that might be recognised and addressed by healthcare staff, and that patients and their carers might benefit from enhanced support following discharge from hospital. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1616-1627
    Number of pages11
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


    • Cancer hospital
    • Interaction
    • Outside world
    • Patients and carers
    • Stigma
    • UK


    Dive into the research topics of 'At home in hospital? Interaction and stigma in people affected by cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this