From discovery to recovery and beyond: The role of voluntary health sector organizations in the lives of women with breast cancer

Itay Greenspan, Femida Handy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose - The goal of this chapter is to understand the role of nonprofit voluntary health organizations (VHOs) in the lives of Canadian women coping with breast cancer. Methodology - Through qualitative interviews with breast cancer survivors and records of VHOs active in this field, we assess the level and nature of their interactions and impact on women's quality of life. Findings - Our findings suggest that at the micro-level, VHOs are venues for women to receive auxiliary services such as information, counseling, and support that complement the mainstream health care provision. While VHO services empower women as health care consumers, we show that they also serve as venues for women to reciprocate by volunteering. This process of reciprocity helps women cope with their own healing and allows them to be not only consumers but also producers of health services. Research limitations - The non-random nature and the small sample size make our findings not easily generalizable to the larger population of breast cancer survivors; rather they are indicative of the experiences of Canadian women in one large urban metropolitan area. Value of the chapter - We demonstrate the role of VHOs as venues of health consumerism as well as places for consumers to become involved in the production of services by volunteering.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationPatients, Consumers and Civil Society
EditorsSusan Chambre, Melinda Goldner
Number of pages26
StatePublished - 2008

Publication series

NameAdvances in Medical Sociology
ISSN (Print)1057-6290

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge a grant received by the second author from Health Canada. We are also grateful to Christine Smith who organized and helped carry out many of the interviews, to Ida Berger for her helpful comments, and to the editors Susan Chambré and Melinda Goldner for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this chapter. Finally, to the many breast cancer survivors who courageously battle their own health problems while helping others, we salute them.


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