In the movies the researchers studied, 40 characters with cancer were women, and 35 men. In 21 films the type of cancer was not mentioned. Symptoms were considered in 72% of the movies, while diagnostic tests were mentioned in 65%. The most frequent treatment mentioned in the movies was chemotherapy followed by pain-relief. Death occurred 46 times (63% of all moveis). Doctors and nurses turned up in 58 films (77%).
Interestingly, Hollywood didn't seem so focused on the big killers among cancer, except for lung tumors, the research showed. "Although breast cancer has a very high impact on female subjects, it is barely represented. Instead relatively rare leukemia, lymphomas and brain tumors predominate."
Despite these flaws, movies about cancer could have a positive impact, for patients and for doctors, say the researchers. "Using the 'big screen' to show stories about cancer could help raise awareness about how large the problem is and what new therapies are available," says Dr De Fiore. "Also, by watching movies on cancer, oncologists could become more conscious of problems they are already facing in the therapeutic setting: cancer and sexuality, the relationship between the patient and the medical staff, side-effects of therapies. And some films simply make us reflect upon the meaning of life and death."
"Theater and movies must always look on 'dramatic' things - this has been true since the days of tuberculosis which was at that time a death sentence and around which a lot of plots evolved, ranging up to such dramatic deaths as in La Boheme or La Traviata," commented Prof Christoph Zielinski, President, Central European Cooperative Oncology Group.
"When considering cancer, the more 'dramatic' forms are being portrayed, as fate of both patient
|Contact: ESMO Press Office|
European Society for Medical Oncology