, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 509–519 | Cite as

Women and Gynaecological Cancer: Gender and the Doctor–Patient Relationship

  • Eileen Willis
  • Debra King
  • Judith Dwyer
  • Jo Wainer
  • Kei Owada


This article presents evidence regarding aspects of the gendered nature of care women with gynaecological cancer receive from their (usually) male surgeons and oncologists in Australia. We argue that despite women’s general preference for female gynaecologists, those with a gynaecological cancer develop a strong therapeutic relationship with their male medical specialist, not extended to their (usually) female nurses and other allied health professionals. Given the highly sensitive and sexualized nature of gynaecological cancer, this requires explanation. These findings can be partly explained by examining the division of labour between nurses and doctors, specifically issues of control over this process and the development of specializations. The findings also bring into stark relief the way in which power and status differences can be used by medicine to create a positive therapeutic relationship with patients while simultaneously de-eroticizing the intimate procedures necessary in assisting women throughout their cancer treatment. Importantly, this relationship also has relevance for policy makers, particularly those concerned with the highly gendered division of labour of the medical specialty workforce in Australia.


Sociology of the professions Gynaecological cancer Oncology Medical specialists Cancer Nurses 



The research was funded by Cancer Australia.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eileen Willis
    • 1
  • Debra King
    • 2
  • Judith Dwyer
    • 3
  • Jo Wainer
    • 4
  • Kei Owada
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Health Sciences, Social Health SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of Social and Policy StudiesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.School of MedicineFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.Eastern Health Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.Children’s Health and Environment Program, School of MedicineThe University of QueenslandSouth BrisbaneAustralia
  6. 6.Queensland Children’s Medical Research InstituteBrisbaneAustralia

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