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The language for individuals with childhood cancer and their social identities


How a group is named is significant because how its members are addressed affects the development of individual and social identities of the group. This study revisited and examined how those diagnosed with childhood cancer are referred to and what terms individuals who experienced childhood cancer prefer. Literature review and quantitative survey methods were used.

First, language in the research studies that refer to those with childhood cancer were analyzed. Results showed that “patients” (64.5%), “survivors” (18.4%), and “child with cancer” (11.8%) were used, with variation by publication period, discipline, and treatment status. Particularly, for those who completed cancer treatment, “survivor” was most frequently used; terms such as “cancer treatment completed,” “cancer experienced,” and “cancer cured” have recently appeared. Second, 75 adults who completed cancer treatments participated in our survey to examine terms that referred to those who completed cancer treatments. Results showed that most participants preferred “cancer cured” (73.2%), followed by “cancer treatment completed” (12.7%) and “cancer survivors” (5.6%). 

This study led to a rich discussion that contributes to the development of a general consensus on terminology referring to those who had childhood cancer and social identity related to the terms.


Kim, M. A., Kwonho, C., Yi, J., & Kim, J. (accepted). The language for individuals with childhood cancer and their social identities. Journal of Critical Social Policy. Accepted October 2018.

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Last Updated: 12/12/23