The Social Pain of Cancer in East Africa: Understanding Need

Nyandieka, Lilian; Cross, Charlotte; Njeru, Mercy Karimi and Makene, Fortunata Songora (2024). The Social Pain of Cancer in East Africa: Understanding Need. In: Banda, Geoffrey; Mackintosh, Maureen; Njeru, Mercy Karimi; Makene, Fortunata Songora and Srinivas, Smita eds. Cancer Care in Pandemic Times: Building Inclusive Local Health Security in Africa and India. International Political Economy Series (IPES). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 49–67.



Cancer is both an individual physical, social and psychological crisis for a patient with one of the many forms of this category of non-communicable disease, and also a cause of deep social pain. Cancer spreads its tentacles through families and friends, social groups and the wider economy, generating stigma, financial destruction, social and psychological damage. This chapter makes the case for a very broad social understanding of cancer need, framing cancer as a whole-society problem, with psychological, social, economic and spiritual impacts much wider than the sufferer. This framing also implies greater attention to survivability and human dignity in policies, practices and provision.

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