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The narrative paradox of the BRCA gene: An ethnographic study in the clinical encounters of ovarian cancer patients

Therond, C; Lanceley, A; Gibbon, S; Rahman, B; (2020) The narrative paradox of the BRCA gene: An ethnographic study in the clinical encounters of ovarian cancer patients. Anthropology & Medicine 10.1080/13648470.2019.1663784. (In press).

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Abstract

In this era of personalisation a patient’s molecular profile plays an increasingly central role in development and delivery of personalised medicine. This paper sets out to explore the sociocultural implications of mainstreaming BRCA genetic testing in the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer patients, who carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. It draws on ethnographic research conducted by between April-June 2016 in a large tertiary London hospital. Participant observation was conducted across two sites. For the first two weeks participant observation was conducted in the traditional genetic testing setting in two separate clinics. From thereon, participant observation was conducted in the clinical encounters of treating patients in the ovarian cancer clinic. In addition, face-to-face interviews were conducted with medical oncologists who worked in the clinic. Contributing to the fields of cancer genetics, personalised medicine and medical material culture studies in medical anthropology the paper seeks to further discussions about the interactions and relationships unfolding between medical objects and subjects across the landscape of cancer care. It highlights the importance of clinic-based ethnography to examine the complexities of identities and technologies as they intersect with the themes of suffering and hope in new and contradictory ways for BRCA-positive patients with late-stage disease. The paper argues that a BRCA mutation is not only central to the political economy of hope but takes on a more materialist nature as it becomes an embodied practice that moves in and beyond the clinic.

Type: Article
Title: The narrative paradox of the BRCA gene: An ethnographic study in the clinical encounters of ovarian cancer patients
DOI: 10.1080/13648470.2019.1663784
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/13648470.2019.1663784
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: BRCA genes, suffering, hope, personalised medicine, cancer
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Cancer Institute
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Cancer Institute > Research Department of Oncology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL EGA Institute for Womens Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL EGA Institute for Womens Health > Womens Cancer
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10083899
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