Lugano, Switzerland / Vienna, Austria, 20 September 2012 Films that feature characters with cancer have become a familiar sight for movie-goers in recent years, but they rarely portray the patient's chances of survival accurately, Italian reserachers will report at the ESMO 2012 Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Vienna, Austria.
After carefully studying 82 movies that center on a person with cancer, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Gran Torino to Diary of a Country Priest and beyond, Dr Luciano De Fiore from Sapienza University of Rome and colleagues found the cancer experiences described in the films were quite different from the truth.
In recent years, movies have tackled some of the most important issues around cancer, he says, such as epidemiology and environmental causes of cancer in Erin Brockovich, Michael Clayton or The last 56 Hours; the economic implications of therapies in The Rainmaker, the management of symptoms in Wit and Dying Young, and care toward the ending of life in Les Invasions Barbares, Eternity and a Day and The First Beautiful Thing.
"Nowadays cinema is confronting the most important issues for oncological disease, which were mostly absent in the earlier days of cinema," says Dr. De Fiore. "Cancer is no easy matter to portray, and seeing it in a movie gives the audience a chance to give voice to their emotions. This is useful for the sharing of cancer care, from personal or familiar problems to issues of collective relevance."
But things for cancer patients are not always as bleak as movie plots make out, the reserachers note. "Very often the ill person doesn't get over the disease and his death is somehow useful to the plot's outcome. This pattern is so strongly standardized that it persists in spite of real progress of treatments."
"Maybe there's an 'educational' gap in the concept of
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European Society for Medical Oncology