Metaphors in palliative cancer care

Project: Research

Layman's description

This interdisciplinary, international project focuses on metaphor in palliative cancer care. By studying how different groups use metaphors both inside and outside the immediate care context, the aim is to support and improve health care professionals ’ capacity to use metaphor in ways that optimize good communication. For more information see the project website, link to the right.

In Swedish palliative cancer care, there is wide-spread awareness of the importance of good communication for patients as well as for those close to them. This type of communication involves particular challenges because of differences in power and expertise between different groups, on the one hand patients and close ones, and on the other health care professionals.

To render the ungraspable graspable, metaphors are frequently used drawing on their capacity to capture the abstract and unknown in terms of more concrete and familiar experiences. The significance of metaphors is particularly tangible in highly personal or sensitive communicative situations. Metaphors can have a reassuring effect, but can also give rise to feelings like fear, helplessness, isolation and guilt. Death from cancer can be described as for instance the end of a journey or as losing the battle and thereby different worldviews are depicted.

The way we understand metaphor is affected by personal as well as cultural and linguistic factors. Today's increasingly multicultural and multilingual society entails particular challenges for cancer care communication through metaphor, and there is a need for enhanced awareness about which metaphors are universal and therefore more suitable in intercultural communicative events.

This project aims to strengthen the scientific foundation for the use of metaphors in Swedish palliative cancer care, thereby contributing to development of praxis in Sweden.
Effective start/end date2015/08/012018/07/31

Collaborative partners

  • Lund University
  • Linnaeus University (lead)
  • Lancaster University (Project partner)


  • Anna W Gustafsson - Swedish - Section 1 (CoI)
  • Hommerberg, Charlotte - Linnaeus University (PI)
  • Benzein, Eva - Linnaeus University (Researcher)
  • Sandgren, Anna - Linnaeus University (Researcher)

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Anna W Gustafsson, Johan Frid, Maria Nääs, Paul Rayson & Scott Piao


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Related research output

Anna W Gustafsson, Charlotte Hommerberg & Anna Sandgren, 2020, In: Medical Humanities. 46, 3, p. 267-277 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Anna W Gustafsson & Charlotte Hommerberg, 2016 Jul 6, In: Socialmedicinsk tidskrift. 93, 3, p. 271 279 p.

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Related activities

Gustafsson, A. W. (Presenter)
2019 Aug 29

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation

Gustafsson, A. W. (Keynote/plenary speaker), Charlotte Hommerberg (Keynote/plenary speaker)
2018 Apr 19

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Gustafsson, A. W. (Keynote/plenary speaker)
2017 May 11

Activity: Talk or presentationPublic lecture/debate/seminar

View all (6)