Cancer in Polish Cinema: Shaping Societal Perceptions

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Polish society often derives its knowledge about cancer from non-scientific sources, folklore, and popular culture. This has led to the prevalence of stereotypes and a heightened fear of the disease. Cancer is a recurring theme in Polish cinema, but these films tend to be devoid of happy endings. This prompts the question: Should we be using them to form our understanding of oncology?

The Sociocultural Context

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Research has shown that Poles, like many others, primarily acquire their knowledge about cancer from non-scientific sources. Dr. Jan Domaradzki, a sociologist, noted that cancer often functions as a metaphor for something undesirable in popular culture, extending beyond its medical context.

Analysis of Polish Films

Dr. Domaradzki’s analysis focused on seven Polish feature films released between 2007 and 2016, mainly dramas dealing with cancer. Notably, these films frequently depict cancer as incurable, typically leading to death. However, this portrayal diverges from reality, where the most common cancer in Poland is lung cancer, and patients are often older.

Medical Aspects in Cinema

These films usually depict a bleak image of the medical aspects of cancer, focusing on treatments like chemotherapy and surgery. Psycho-oncology is often overlooked, with minimal attention given to a patient’s emotional and psychological needs.

Cinematic Representation of Doctors

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In the analyzed films, doctors are present, but their portrayal tends to be lacking in professionalism and empathy, focusing mainly on medical procedures.

Art vs. Knowledge

Polish cinema, as Dr. Domaradzki argues, aims to evoke emotions rather than provide factual knowledge about cancer. These films emphasize the physical aspects of the disease, body image issues, and life’s meaning in the face of a cancer diagnosis.

Polish cinema shapes perceptions of cancer, often perpetuating negative stereotypes and fear. While these films elicit strong emotional responses, they do little to promote an accurate understanding of oncology. A more balanced and informative representation could contribute to better public education about cancer.

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