Tag Archives: cancer

Fighting for breath

Anna Lora-Wainwright (2013), Fighting for Breath: Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village, Hawaii University Press.

Numerous reports of “cancer villages” have appeared in the past decade in both Chinese and Western media, highlighting the downside of China’s economic development. Less generally known is how people experience and understand cancer in areas where there is no agreement on its cause. Who or what do they blame? How do they cope with its onset? Fighting for Breath is the first ethnography to offer a bottom-up account of how rural families strive to make sense of cancer and care for sufferers. It addresses crucial areas of concern such as health, development, morality, and social change in an effort to understand what is at stake in the contemporary Chinese countryside.

Encounters with cancer are instances in which social and moral fault lines may become visible. Anna Lora-Wainwright combines powerful narratives and critical engagement with an array of scholarly debates in sociocultural and medical anthropology and in the anthropology of China. The result is a moving exploration of the social inequities endemic to post-1949 China and the enduring rural-urban divide that continues to challenge social justice in the People’s Republic. In-depth case studies present villagers’ “fight for breath” as both a physical and social struggle to reclaim a moral life, ensure family and neighborly support, and critique the state for its uneven welfare provision. Lora-Wainwright depicts their suffering as lived experience, but also as embedded in domestic economies and in the commodification of care that has placed the burden on families and individuals.


Part 1: Foundations

  • Chapter 1: Cancer and Contending Forms of Morality
  • Chapter 2: The Evolving Moral World of Langzhong

Part 2: Making Sense of Cancer

  • Chapter 3: Water, Hard Work, and Farm Chemicals: The Moral Economy of Cancer
  • Chapter 4: Gendered Hardship, Emotions, and the Ambiguity of Blame
  • Chapter 5: Xiguan, Consumption, and Shifting Cancer Etiologies

Part 3: Strategies of Care and Mourning

  • Chapter 6: Performing Closeness, Negotiating Family Relations, and the Cost of Cancer
  • Chapter 7: Perceived Efficacy, Social Identities, and the Rejection of Cancer Surgery
  • Chapter 8: Family Relations and Contested Religious Moralities


  • Appendix 1: Questionnaire (English Translation)
  • Appendix 2: List of Pesticides Used in Langzhong and Their Health Effects
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index


Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Cancer in China

Cancer increasing on the mainland

January, 2013-01-13
The number of middle-aged mainlanders developing cancerous tumours doubled over the two decades to 2009, a new national report says.

At the same time, the overall frequency and mortality of cancers have both risen, a development mainly ascribed to the ageing population.

The 2012 China Cancer Registry Annual Report, produced by the Ministry of Health’s National Cancer Registry Centre, said the prevalence of all kinds of cancers on the mainland was 285.91 cases for every 100,000 people in 2009, compared with 184 cases per 100,000 people in the late 1980s. About 3.12 million people a year – or 8,550 people a day – were diagnosed with cancers, the report said.
Read the article on The China Morning Post

Cancer in China influenced by pollution, poverty

2013-02-04 ( Xinhua) BEIJING – Cancer and its treatment in China is influenced by air pollution, poverty and a fledgling medical insurance system, the Health News, an affiliate newspaper of the Health Ministry, reported Monday — also World Cancer Day.

The same type of cancer shows different characteristics in the east and the west. Treatments also vary due to social and economic factors. The Health News cited breast cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer as examples.

Breast cancer

While the incidence rate of breast cancer shrinks in western countries, the traditional high-burden countries, it is on the rise in China as a result of changes in lifestyles, living conditions, diets, and the westernization of cities, Jiang Zefei, breast cancer expert with the 307 Hospital of PLA, said in Health News. (…)

Lung cancer

Chinese patients tend to have more severe adhesion and calcification at pulmonary hilar lymph node, when compared to Europeans and Americans, according to Wang Jun, chest surgery expert with the Peking University People’s Hospital.

In Health News, he attributed such characteristics to air pollution, living conditions and diet, among other factors. (…)

Abnormal hyperplasia at pulmonary hilar lymph node means higher risks during surgeries, Wang said. As the blood vessels at the pulmonary hilar region have extremely thin walls, separating the adhesive hyperplasia could lead to massive, life-threatening bleeding in the chest.

Colorectal cancer

In China, the age of colorectal cancer incidence is ten years earlier than that in western countries. While the west reports more cancer of the colon than rectal, it is opposite in China, Gu Jin, colorectal surgery expert with Beijing Cancer Hospital, said in Health News. Gu said there had been no convincing explanation yet due to a lack of large-scale epidemiological surveys.However, he said poor medical insurance contributed to Chinese doctors searching for flexible ways of treating rectal cancer. (…)

Read the article on The CHINADAILY.com.cn

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

More Posts - Website