Fiona farewells her breasts': A popular magazine account of breast cancer prevention

  • Crabb S
  • LeCouteur A
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In this paper, the authors examine a popular media account of prophylactic mastectomy--the surgical removal of 'healthy' breasts for preventive purposes--focusing on the ways in which the account works to normalize what might alternatively be considered extreme preventive health behaviour. Although the procedure remains controversial, prophylactic mastectomy is increasingly presented as a treatment option for women considered to be at high risk of developing breast cancer. A discursive analysis focuses on how one woman's 'decision' to undergo prophylactic surgery of this type was accounted for in terms of two broad identity constructions or positionings: as 'mother', and as 'certain to die of breast cancer' in the absence of such surgery. It is argued that constructions of prophylactic mastectomy, such as that depicted in this account from a popular women's magazine, can be seen to draw on traditional gendered discourses, and on notions of responsibility central to the new public health. Such media accounts thus promote general acceptance of the procedure, and risk management more generally, as enterprising actions that reasonable, morally responsible, 'at-risk' women should undertake to maintain their own health and to care for their families.

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  • Shona Crabb

  • Amanda LeCouteur

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