Battle, Journey, Imprisonment and Burden: Patterns of metaphor use in blogs about living with advanced cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The significance of metaphors for the experience of cancer has been the topic of extensive previous research, with "Battle" and "Journey" metaphors standing out as key. Adaptation to the patient's use of metaphor is generally believed to be an important aspect of person-centered care, especially in palliative care. The aim of this study was to investigate the use of metaphors in blogs written in Swedish by people living with advanced cancer and explore possible patterns associated with individuals, age and gender. Methods: The study is based on a dataset totaling 2,602,479 words produced some time during the period 2007-2016 by 27 individuals diagnosed with advanced cancer. Both qualitative and quantitative procedures were used, and the findings are represented as raw frequencies as well as normalized frequencies per 10,000 words. Our general approach was exploratory and descriptive. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to analyze statistical significance. Results: Our results confirm the strong foothold of "Journey" and "Battle" metaphors. "Imprisonment" and "Burden" metaphors were also used by the majority of the individuals. The propensity to use metaphors when describing the cancer experience was found to differ extensively across the individuals. However, individuals were not found to opt for one conceptualization over the other but tended to draw on several different metaphor domains when conceptualizing their experience. Socio-demographic factors such as age or gender were not found to be strong predictors of metaphor choice in this limited study. Conclusions: Using a range of different metaphors allows individuals with advanced cancer to highlight different aspects of their experience. The presence of metaphors associated with "Journey", "Battle", "Imprisonment" and "Burden" across individuals could be explained by the fact that the bloggers are part of a culturally consistent cohort, despite variations in age, sex and cancer form. Awareness of metaphors commonly used by patients can enhance health professionals' capacity to identify metaphorical patterns and develop a common language grounded in the patients' own metaphor use, which is an important requisite for person-centered palliative care.


External organisations
  • Linnaeus University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • Battle, Blogs, Burden, Cancer, Imprisonment, Journey, Metaphors, Palliative care, Patient narratives
Original languageEnglish
Article number59
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Apr 25
Publication categoryResearch