Dominant restitution narratives of 'being lucky': An ethnographic exploration of narratives about operable lung cancer


OBJECTIVE: Patients with operable lung cancer experience physical and psychosocial challenges early in their treatment trajectory. However, these patients have unmet needs for a dialogue with clinicians and report that especially psychosocial challenges are not addressed in the clinical encounter. Aiming to understand the reasons for this, this study explores dominant narratives about operable lung cancer.

METHODS: An ethnographic study was conducted at a Danish hospital providing surgery for lung cancer. Interactions between patients, relatives and clinicians were observed during hospitalisation. Ten patients were included from September 2019 to March 2020.

RESULTS: One overarching dominant narrative of 'being lucky' was found, supported by three narrative subthemes, related to different aspects of the treatment. First, the possibility of surgical treatment was 'like winning the lottery'. Second, surgery was a minor intervention like 'a quiet day at the office'. Third, even if adjuvant chemotherapy was necessary, as long as the surgery went well, it was 'good news' in the outpatient clinic.

CONCLUSION: 'Being lucky' is a dominant restitution narrative about operable lung cancer. A predominance of restitution narratives implies that clinicians are the active party, while patients remain passive, which limits their perspective and thus silences their concerns unrelated to curative treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13633
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)e13633
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms/psychology
  • Narration


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