The Eight Core Social Conflicts of Ovarian Cancer

Our research yielded eight social conflicts experienced by ovarian cancer patients. Click on the links below to read about these conflicts in patients' own words and explore our ideas for how they can be addressed. To learn more about the process that led to these conclusions, click here

Social Conflict 1: Before Diagnosis - All women — but especially women with a family history of ovarian cancer — deserve information they can use to be on the lookout for this disease. But attitudes and expectations related to women’s health prevent them from getting the information they need soon enough to make the best decisions about ovarian cancer. Attitudes about women’s health and decision-making sometimes prevent conversations that ought to occur with care providers. LEARN MORE

Social Conflict 2: Diagnosis - All women with ovarian cancer deserve a reliable, timely diagnosis. But the disease is also difficult to detect. This difficulty is compounded by inadequacies in the system of care, which may delay diagnosis or cause women to feel as if no one will ever tell them what is wrong with them. After diagnosis, many women reflect upon their experience and say they felt as if they needed to “fight” for a proper diagnosis. LEARN MORE

Social Conflict 3: Timely Treatment and Confident Consent - All women with ovarian cancer deserve timely treatment. But because of the urgency of a cancer diagnosis, many women feel rushed into treatment, often feeling as if they have not even fully accepted the fact of being a cancer patient before treatment begins. Though their providers may have met the legal definition of informed consent, many women feel as if they were not in control of the initial decisions in their course of treatment. LEARN MORE

Social Conflict 4: Learning and Decision-making PreferencesAll women with ovarian cancer deserve the opportunity to learn everything they would like to know about their disease — especially their individual case — and to make fully-informed decisions. But patients face many different sources of information, many of which were not designed with their interests in mind. Furthermore, patients and members of their support networks may all have their own styles of learning and making decisions; inflexible health systems often cannot adapt to a variety of individual preferences. LEARN MORE

Social Conflict 5: Changing Identities in Families and Social Groups - All women with ovarian cancer deserve to be treated as patients with a right to vulnerability and the care of others. At the same time, all patients also have complex social identities. They are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, professionals, and neighbors. Women report many struggles between their new identities as patients and these other roles, with their families and support networks often struggling to understand the change. At the same time, putting family members before themselves may be a critical part of women’s identities and values, complicating their own evolution in the new patient role. LEARN MORE

Social Conflict 6: Support, Struggle, and Advocacy - All women with ovarian cancer deserve to make sense of their disease experience in their own way. Yet society has created social and cultural narratives around cancer that may not fit the needs of individual patients or ovarian cancer patients generally. Some women may not have the ability or desire to be a “hero” or “self-advocate” — or even to identify as a survivor. The “fight” metaphor also inappropriately shapes some patients’ and supporters’ expectations around treatment and recurrence. LEARN MORE

Social Conflict 7: Recurrence - All women with ovarian cancer deserve to understand the facts about recurrence that are relevant to their case and receive appropriate preventative care. But to the patient, her support network, and her care team, the work of dealing with an initial diagnosis and treatment is already a huge challenge. Whether they had recurred or not, patients in our discussion groups said they wish they had known more about recurrence sooner, but many were also uncertain when or how they would have preferred to receive this knowledge. LEARN MORE

Social Conflict 8: End of Life - All women with ovarian cancer deserve control of decisions about how their lives will end, no matter what the cause. But women often experience conflict over expressing their wishes about the end of life and seeing them carried out faithfully. Confusion often exists around palliative care options and patients’ rights. Sometimes this is the result of a “heroic” health care system pursuing a cure at any cost, but it can also result from conflicts within the family and support networks. Indeed, patients themselves may face a great deal of uncertainty about how to approach death. LEARN MORE