Il cancro sul grande schermo. Quanto, come e quando il cinema si occupa delle malattie oncologiche

Translated title of the contribution: Cancer on the big screen. How and when movies deal with oncological diseases

Luciano De Fiore, Anna Costantini, Massimo Di Maio, Stefania Gori, Domenica Lorusso, Giovanni Rosti, Carmine Pinto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Films that feature characters with cancer have become a familiar sight for movie-goers. 148 movies treating tumors were selected, produced all over the world since the Thirties, in which cancer had "prompt", "relevant", or "plot" character. In order to clearly understand each film's peculiar message about cancer, we recollected data such as genealogy, year and country of production, main characters' age and gender, and kind of tumor. Movies deal with cancer through very relevant questions, as well as themes and contexts that have great influence on oncologist's mind and consciousness. Specially in recent years, films have tackled some of the most important issues around cancer, such as his epidemiology and environmental causes; the economic implications of therapies; the management of symptoms and side effects; the psychological dynamics; the care toward the ending of life. The most frequent treatment mentioned in the movies was chemotherapy followed by antalgic therapy. Very often the ill person on the screen 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. Movies use disease, and other tragedies, as a dramatic device, and since drama is what we expect of the medium, should we be concerned that there is a gap between fiction and reality? Movies represent an essential step of educational process, but their potential has been fully exploited only in recent times. 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 ill person and the medical staff, side effects of therapies. Some films simply make us reflect upon the meaning of life and death. This is useful for the sharing of cancer care, from personal or familiar problems to issues of collective relevance. Copyright - Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore.

Translated title of the contributionCancer on the big screen. How and when movies deal with oncological diseases
Original languageItalian
Pages (from-to)198-209
Number of pages12
JournalRecenti Progressi in Medicina
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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