Scoping the social realities of the early detection of cancer

Principal Investigator: Dr Maryon McDonald, Department of Social Anthropology

 Samuel Murison

Funded by: CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Programme "implications for health, medicine and society arising from the early detection of cancer" awards 2017

This project will take stock of previous studies and begin to outline a broader and novel remit for understanding the social realities of screening.  It has long been feared that ever more sophisticated diagnostic technologies, together with what can seem to be earlier definitions of pathology, may save lives - but might also encourage diagnosis creep. Early detection programmes can mean that more and more people are recruited into the category of ‘patients’, and the effects can be life-saving or deleterious. The Early Detection of Cancer Programme is very much aware that its activities have ‘broader implications’. This project will seek to flesh out some of these implications by placing other vital aspects of the activities and the people concerned - their everyday worlds, their experiences of the programme, the gains and the costs in their lives - back into the picture.  The social realities involved are not limited to a downstream category of ‘psycho-social effects’. Understanding the social realities of early detection means also paying attention to just what is being detected and how, the demands placed on all those involved at every stage of the process, the relations and modes of personhood brought into being, and the social worlds that are implicated and enacted.