Friday, February 02, 2007

Don’t die young

Some of my colleagues hate watching any medical programmes. The dramas are unrealistic and make them cross because of the number of inaccuracies and the documentaries are oversimplified and just stuff they already know. I enjoy some of the documentaries; they can be a bit like watching somebody else do some of the less taxing parts of my job while I relax with a cup of tea.

Last week’s episode of Don’t Die Young was just such a programme, presented by somebody who is actually medically qualified and with the experiments, though simplified and jazzed up for TV, illustrating real physiological principles. Dr Alice Roberts continues that great medical tradition of experimenting on yourself and even gets into the operating theatre to show ‘scenes of surgery which some viewers may find disturbing’ before 9pm.

What really interested me was the reaction of the smoker shown the lung cancer. Handling specimens like the one shown in the programme is a regular occurrence for me and it’s easy for us medics, nurses etc to forget that although we see cancer every day, the average member of the public encounters it relatively rarely.

Lung cancer (the yellow bit)

Lung cancer is still a fairly rare disease to the man or woman in the street; especially compared to the number of people they might know who smoke. For those of us in histopathology, cardiothoracic surgery, oncology and respiratory medicine it is far too common. For the lady in the programme, facing a real, grey and white lumpy tumour seemed to be a very powerful experience in her quest to stop smoking. I hope it had the same effect for others watching.

The lung picture is from the Pathology Education Instructional Resource.


At 01:04, Blogger The Platypus said...

One thing that really bugs me about medical TV programs, or programmes, more than the shocking of asystole and all the other inappropriate responses is the use of x-rays as props. The films are invariably displayed backwards or upside down and why, I ask, do they always leave a bunch of films unrelated to the case at hand on the lightboxes at all times?

One popular US show that I admit to watching, Law & Order, always has an obligatory visit to the medical examiner's autopsy room where the walls are adorned with various radiographs of obviously pink and well inflated lungs. Some will be from unrelated adults shown side by side with maybe an odd pediatric or skull film tossed in for variety. Again, why?

Another show which I don't watch but people say is good is a comedy called Scrubs. The introduction is a clever scene in which the characters morph into each other in a jumpy time-lapsed way as they approach a patient's bed, ending with the lead character placing a chest film on a light box. Superimposed on the x-ray over the lungs is the show's logo, S.C.R.U.B.S., which is kind of catchy but the the film is printed backwards with the heart on the patient's right side. Aaaaargh!

At 18:14, Blogger Dr K said...

You're right, in documentaries, whenever they're interviewing a doctor they always seem to have them sitting in front of a box covered in x-rays or CT films even when the doctor isn't a radiologist and what they're talking about has nothing to do with the x-rays behind them. It's bizarre.


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