The Veriblog

Trends in Oncology: Metaphor Basics

The treatment discussion as a whole has been impacted by the launch of new classes of treatment and new products over the past year. One third (10/30) of newly approved molecules in the European Union in 2016 were drugs for use in oncology.

As we continue our look at trends across Verilogue’s conversation database, one common device physicians and patients often can use to discuss treatment options is a metaphor.

Metaphors are tools that often physicians use to break down a more complex concept into an easy to remember and understand comparison. Looking specifically at EU & UK oncology conversations, we noticed a common theme and fundamental “cancer as war” metaphor. For example:

1.   Treatment in general is framed a strategic plan designed to control the cancer: “So we need to devise a way of shrinking these tumors down, so that your pain improves and we can control the cancer as well.” – Oncologist to a Colorectal Patient, UK

2.   “Beating the cancer” is a phrase often used to define treatment goals: “Chemotherapy will give you the best chance of beating this cancer in the longer term.” – Oncologist to a Colorectal Patient, UK

3.   Cancer’s “resistance” against the attack can necessitate a change in therapy: “We’re dealing with a situation where your cancer has become resistant to hormones. And, because it has become resistant, we need to change tack.” – Oncologist to a Prostate Cancer Patient, UK

4.   Improved data and targeted mechanisms of action boost the Oncologists’ arsenal to “fight the cancer”: “We have the possibility to treat with a targeted therapy, um, [with] much more accurate data to give us a better grip on therapy, fighting [the cancer], and prolonging the patient’s life.” – Oncologist to a NSCLC Patient, DE

5.   And even patients recognize the value of an “alliance” between one’s own immune system and treatment: “Yes, your immune system. They explained to me that it’s for the immune system, to fight against [the cancer].” – NSCLC Patient, ES


As information from ASCO continues to resonate and we start thinking about how each new class of therapy or brand of treatment will ultimately be discussed with patients, we must also think about how that information can impact the in-office dialogue. In terms of communication devices like metaphors, we need to consider how the molecules’ characteristics will conform to (or break with) traditional interactional patterns we’ve seen overtime in our database.


Have you heard any metaphors used in your office visits? We’d love to hear about it!
Want more oncology trends? Check out our last post on Trends in Oncology, where we discuss conversation “vital signs” here.




Verilogue offers fly-on-the-wall access to candid healthcare conversations between patients and their healthcare providers. Verilogue’s trained linguists analyze these dialogues using their expertise, and provide unique insights for our clients. Reach out with questions or comments via the below form!

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