Apricot Kernels and Chemo? Eating Away Cancer at a Biomedical Hospital in Germany
(University of Tübingen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper focuses on the role of diet in a German cancer ward: Dietary education is practiced to instill agency in patients. This contradicts the biomedical idea of the docile body. I reflect on conflicting medical paradigms, thereby tracing the process of hegemonization of knowledge on diet and cancer.
Paper long abstract:
Due to increasingly lengthy survival periods following diagnosis as well as newly developed treatments, many types of cancer are now regarded as chronic conditions. This shift has altered traditional treatment patterns and exposed new needs for continuing, long-term care. In Germany, four out of five patients with cancer use non-biomedical practices to improve their condition and/or ameliorate the side-effects of chemo- or radiotherapy. Most patients start with dietary modifications that are either facilitated through naturopathic practitioners or which they learn about through literature, the media or social contacts. In the last decade, biomedical practitioners have recognized this trend and now attempt to integrate dietary techniques and other naturopathic practices (e.g. homeopathy or water treatment) into their own institutions, thereby regulating access to these services and ensuring interpretative authority. This paper focuses on the role of dietary regimes in a German biomedical cancer ward. In this hospital, dietary education is practiced to instill a sense of self-responsibility and agency in patients that is intended to extend beyond their hospital stay. This contradicts the biomedical idea of the passive docile body which is exclusively healed by medics. The empirical data of this paper reflects shifting and conflicting medical paradigms, thereby tracing the process of hegemonization of knowledge on diet and cancer.
Eating for Life: When Food is the Best Medicine