The Meaning of Body Experience Evaluation in Oncology

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Evaluation of quality of life, psychic and bodily well-being is becoming increasingly important in oncology aftercare. This type of assessment is mainly carried out by medical psychologists. In this paper I will seek to show that body experience valuation has, besides its psychological usefulness, a normative and practical dimension. Body experience evaluation aims at establishing the way a person experiences and appreciates his or her physical appearance, intactness and competence. This valuation constitutes one's ‘body image'. While, first, interpreting the meaning of body image and, second, indicating the limitations of current psychological body image assessment, I argue that the normative aspect of body image is related to the experience of bodily wholeness or bodily integrity. Since this experience is contextualized by a person's life story, evaluation should also focus on narrative aspects. I finally suggest that the interpretation of body experience is not only valuable to assess a person's quality of life after treatment, but that it can also be useful in counseling prior to interventions, since it can support patients in making decisions about interventions that will change their bodies. To apply this type of evaluation to oncology practice, a rich and tailored vocabulary of body experiences has to be developed.

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