Framing Cancer


Health communications can be helpful to show how to properly treat a patient and to respond to the needs of the patient in an efficient manner. Communicating in a certain way can also help to influence a patient. Framing is a way to influence a decision based on the way it is presented to an individual (Kernochan 2004). The movie 50/50 shows how framing a situation can make it positive or negative. I advise you to watch this movie and be warned that there are spoilers in the following text.
The movie starts off with Adam who is 27 and living with his girlfriend feeling sick so he goes to the doctor to find out what could be wrong. The doctor comes in and starts speaking words like sarcoma into his recorder. When Adam asks him what is his diagnosis he starts off with medical terms that Adam does not understand and then hits him with the news of cancer. Adam is in disbelief because he does not drink or smoke and jogs daily. The doctor has framed his diagnosis in a negative way just blurting out cancer as if it were a death sentence. Adam wants to know what his chances of living are.
There are many different factors to include when calculating a survival rate for cancer. Being single or married can make a difference in survival rates most likely due to social support (Heresco 2012). With this in mind Adam looks up the survivability for his particular type of cancer and finds out that it is a 50 percent chance hence the title of the movie 50/50.
Adam has a friend Kyle who helps him to look at the bright side of this by framing it so that the cancer is a way to meet women. People with cancer are more likely to have problems in relationships due to fears of spreading the disease (which is not the case) or they may fear the person with cancer is fragile, especially in the cases of prostate cancer (Webber 2008).Eventually Adam’s girlfriend gets kicked out when Kyle discovers her with another man and Adam is willing to take him up on his offer of meeting women.
Kyle and Adam at this point are seen in the bathroom where Adam is going to Shave his head before all of his hair falls out from the chemotherapy. They joke about the razor and are shown as having fun with the task even though it is under dire circumstances.
One of the treatments for cancer is Marijuana which has been shown to stop metastasis in many different forms of aggressive cancer.
Pierre Desprez, a molecular biologist, spent decades studying ID-1, the gene that causes cancer to spread. Meanwhile, fellow researcher Sean McAllister was studying the effects of Cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-toxic, non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Finally, the pair collaborated, combining CBD and cells containing high levels of ID-1 in a petri dish.
“What we found was that his Cannabidiol could essentially ‘turn off’ the ID-1,” Desprez told HuffPost. The cells stopped spreading and returned to normal.
“We likely would not have found this on our own,” he added. “That’s why collaboration is so essential to scientific discovery.”(Wilkey 2012).
Marijuana is a controversial drug because a lot of people use it recreationally even though it is an illegal substance.
During his treatment Adam sits with two older gentlemen Richard and Mitch who offer him some Marijuana that Mitch’s wife gave them. Adam refuses at first saying that he does not do drugs. Obviously he has been presented with Marijuana in a negative way of being framed. Richard tells him that it helps with the pain after describing the pain in a most horrible way. Adam decides to try the Marijuana since Richard has now framed it in such a way that Adam is willing to try it and does so.
As the movie progresses we meet Adams parents. Adams mother is a caring mother who wants to move in with Adam to care for him but at the same time his Father has Alzheimer disease and she needs to care for him. Adam’s Father has his condition framed in a negative light as he is shown not recognizing his own son he is also older and even talks about his jacket when more serious matters are going on around him. The film also seems to downplay his father as he is not given much screen time. Adam even frames his mother as being a poor mother even though she is not.
The common psychological and emotional responses to cancer arise from knowledge of life-threatening diagnosis, its prognostic uncertainty, and fears about death and dying. The emotional responses are also due to physical symptoms—pain, nausea, lymphoedema, and other distressing symptoms of the disease and unwanted effects of medical, surgical, and radiation treatments. The stigma due to cancer and its consequences adds to the negative reactions to the disease. (Chaturvedi 2012)
Adam goes to a psychologist who turns out to be a 24 year old female named Katherine. Adam at first compares her to Doogie Howser and finds out that she is working towards her doctorate. Katherine tries to get him to talk about his situation but he does not want to admit he has problems and that he is fine the way he is. Overall Adam seems to be adjusting to his situation well and has no problems coping even when he has to kick his girlfriend out of the house.
Adam and Kyle go out and pick up some girls telling them that they have some medical marijuana back at their place which would be good to smoke once again placing marijuana in a positive light so that they can talk these girls into coming back to their place for sex.
Katherine picks up Adam later when he is walking home and Adam tries to get to know her better but she tries to keep her distance due to patient confidentiality and does not talk about her personal life even though she is having him talk about his. At this point in the story it is clear that they like each other but they are having a hard time talking about it.
Although Kyle is his best friend Adam spends a lot of time with Richard and Mitch even outside the hospital. The three of them have a good time drinking beers and talking about their cancer one night. When Adam goes in the next morning he asks Richard where Mitch is. Richards tells him that Mitch died last night. Adam is devastated by the news which frames his cancer in a new way. Adam then gets news that the chemotherapy is not working and that they need to operate.
The night before his operation Adam who has never learned to drive asks Kyle if he can try to drive his car. Kyle agrees and they get into the car. Adam drives like a madman running over things and going down a one way street the wrong way. Adam is emotionally charged and starts to cry for the first time since he had his diagnosis.
Adam goes in for his surgery and meanwhile his family and friends wait in the hospital where they all connect emotionally. Katherine shows up to support Adam. The doctor comes in with some bad news, they had to take out some more muscle and such but Adam is going to be fine.
The movie ends on a high note with Kyle helping Adam dress his wound and Katherine stops by because they are now dating. Adam looks a lot better and has a smile on his face at the end of the movie.
The lesson you should take from this is be careful how you talk to others and to think carefully because the way you say something may have an impact on that person. Good or bad you should always try to emphasize the idea that you want to get across in a positive way because anything you say can have an impact on others.

Works Cited
Chaturvedi, Santosh K. “Psychiatric Oncology: Cancer In Mind.” Indian Journal Of Psychiatry 54.2 (2012): 111-118. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Oct. 2012.
Heresco, Marlo. “Cancer Survival Rates Different for Married and Single Women.” Cancer Survival Rates Different for Married and Single Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. .
Kernochan, R. “Framing and Framing Theory.” N.p., Aug. 04. Web. 7 Oct. 12.
Webber, Christine, and David Delvin. “Sex and Cancer.” Netdoctor. N.p., 18 Nov. 2008. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. .
Wilkey, Robin. “Marijuana And Cancer: Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis In Aggressive Cancers.” The Huffington Post., 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. .

You can reach Shane at and follow him on twitter @lordshane2112


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