The word 'cancer': reframing the context to reduce anxiety arousal



Publication Details

Donovan, R. J., Jalleh, G. & Jones, S. C. (2003). The word 'cancer': reframing the context to reduce anxiety arousal. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 27 (3), 291-293.


This study investigated reaction to the word 'cancer' versus the phrase 'a cancer' in two ways: (1) assessing associations to the spoken words 'cancer' or 'a cancer' and (2) presenting participants with a situation where one person says to another in print: 'I have cancer' or 'I have a cancer'. The participants were a convenience sample of 112 adults (i.e. aged 18 years or over), 55 males and 57 females, recruited via a mall intercept survey in the Perth (Western Australia) central business district. Participants were randomly assigned to either the 'cancer' condition or the 'a cancer' condition. Both methods confirmed that cancer arouses primarily negative affective responses in the vast majority of people. It was hypothesised that using 'a cancer' might lead to less negative affect associations than just the word 'cancer'. This was found to be the case for the spoken word association technique, but not for the printed cartoon technique.

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