Hollywood’s Portrayal of Cancer in Movies Fuels Misconceptions, New Study Finds

Hoag Medical Oncologist, David J. Benjamin, M.D., is lead author of new study published in JCO Oncology Practice

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Jan. 17, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Hollywood films may provide an unrealistic view of cancer to individuals with cancer and their families, and can create misunderstandings about curability, treatment options, types of care available and cost, according to a study published today in JCO Oncology Practice. The study was led by David J. Benjamin, M.D., a medical oncologist at Hoag in Newport Beach, California.

“We found that the portrayals of cancer treatment, prognosis and cost of care in movies significantly diverge from reality and therefore may have an impact on how patients approach cancer care,” said Dr. Benjamin.  “We hope to make individuals newly diagnosed with cancer, treating physicians and the general public be aware that movies do not accurately reflect the state of modern cancer care or the advances that physicians, including here at Hoag, are making every day in cancer management.”

Researchers reviewed more than 100 films released between 2010-2020 and found several key findings about films’ lasting impact on public perception of cancer treatment, prevention and care options.

Key findings from the study include:

With great power comes great responsibility. Hollywood shapes public opinion about everything from LGBTQIA+ rights (“Philadelphia“) to racial disparity (“To Kill a Mockingbird”). The study found that the portrayal of type of cancer does not accurately reflect the most common cancers that are diagnosed. For example, movie makers often cast brain cancer in a lead role, when in fact, it is not even in the top 10 cancers diagnosed in the U.S. Meanwhile, lung cancer, which is the second-most diagnosed cancer in the U.S., hardly makes a cameo.

Inaccuracies about survivorship. If a character develops cancer in the first act of a film, they are generally dead by the time the credits roll. Meanwhile, survivorship and thrivorship is on the rise for nearly every cancer type. In fact, the cancer mortality rate has decreased by 27% between 1999 and 2019, according to the CDC. And the number of cancer survivors is projected to increase by 24.4% by 2032. While the authors acknowledge that death may be integral to the story line, they say it doesn’t serve anyone’s interest to depict cancers as “untreatable” when they actually can be overcome.

Portrayal of Treatment Options. Cancer care today often includes new systemic treatments, including immunotherapy and targeted therapy. In Hollywood, chemotherapy is usually shown. As a result, patients are unaware of advanced treatment options that offer benefits including less side effects and better outcomes.

Palliative Care and Hospice – Common Treatment, Uncommon in Movies.
Rarely, if ever, are palliative care options depicted in films. For this reason, oncologists “need to be aware that individuals with cancer as well as caregivers may possibly lack knowledge surrounding these services or may carry potential stigma when discussing the utilization of either service in an individual’s care,” the story noted. The lack of awareness of palliative care and hospice represents a missed opportunity to enhance public perception of these services’ immense benefits.

Financial Toxicity. Only four of the 100 movies addressed financial costs, with one focusing on the financial stresses associated with cancer treatment. There is a lack of knowledge surrounding financial toxicity among individuals. Hoag, for example offers patients a financial navigator to help educate patients and mitigate the consequences related to cancer costs.

Of course, Hollywood is in the business of entertainment, not education. Omissions, misrepresentations, and even straight-out fabrications are an expected part of fiction. For this reason, the authors have a simple suggestion: Patients and oncologists must be cognizant that movie depictions of cancer may not accurately reflect the state of cancer care.

“Oncologists should be aware of how cancer is depicted in movies to anticipate and address potential discrepancies between patients’ potential views and the reality of cancer care,” the authors wrote.

The study’s authors note that films are meant for entertainment, not oncological education. But they hope that by raising awareness of the disparity between reality and fiction, they can influence the influencers, writing:

“Although it must be acknowledged that filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors may be influenced by personal experiences with cancer when portraying cancer on-screen or may portray aspects of cancer care for dramatic purposes, greater patient and oncologist involvement in film storylines may make movies more realistic and improve public perception of cancer management.”

ABOUT HOAG
Hoag is a nonprofit, regional health care delivery system in Orange County, California. Delivering world-class, comprehensive, personalized care, Hoag consists of 1,800 top physicians, 15 urgent care facilities, 10 health & wellness centers, and two award-winning hospitals. Hoag offers a comprehensive blend of health care services that includes seven institutes providing specialized services in the following areas: cancer, digestive health, heart and vascular, neurosciences, spine, women’s health, and orthopedics through Hoag’s affiliate, Hoag Orthopedic Institute, which consists of an orthopedic hospital and four ambulatory surgical centers. Hoag is the highest ranked hospital in Orange County by U.S. News & World Report and the only OC hospital ranked in the Top 10 in California, as well as a designated Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). For more information, visit hoag.org.

SOURCE Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian

Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/hollywoods-portrayal-of-cancer-in-movies-fuels-misconceptions-new-study-finds-302037197.html

Latest

Chief of Station: Aaron Eckhart is pulled into the espionage underworld in trailer for spy thriller

Aaron Eckhart is pulled in the espionage underworld after...

TransPerfect Wins Two Entertainment Globalization Association (EGA) Hermes Awards

Leading Global Media Solutions Provider Nominated in Six Categories NEW...
spot_imgspot_img

Don't miss

Chief of Station: Aaron Eckhart is pulled into the espionage underworld in trailer for spy thriller

Aaron Eckhart is pulled in the espionage underworld after...

TransPerfect Wins Two Entertainment Globalization Association (EGA) Hermes Awards

Leading Global Media Solutions Provider Nominated in Six Categories NEW...

Los Angeles post-strike production rebound slow to materialise, says report

Source: Pixabay Los Angeles’ post-strike production rebound has been slow...

Introducing ‘Creating Todd Crandell’: An Inspiring Journey of Resilience and Transformation

Todd´s message is simple: Never give up. What you desire, already exists, and you can have it. Because at every turn, you hold the...

Chief of Station: Aaron Eckhart is pulled into the espionage underworld in trailer for spy thriller

Aaron Eckhart is pulled in the espionage underworld after the mysterious death of his wife in trailer for spy thriller Chief of Station. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClMSYUPRUKM Vertical Entertainment...

TransPerfect Wins Two Entertainment Globalization Association (EGA) Hermes Awards

Leading Global Media Solutions Provider Nominated in Six Categories NEW YORK, April 15, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- TransPerfect, the world's largest provider of language and AI...