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Portrayal of Brain Tumors in TV Shows

By Wade Iwata
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Over the past two weeks, ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” has featured two brain tumor stories in the hour long program on Thursday evenings.  First, two weeks ago, a young woman had an “inoperable brain tumor” where the crafty television doctors were able to operate on it, fully remove the tumor, and save the young mothers life.  This past week another young girl came into the fictional Seattle hospital with a tumor that could not be fully resected.  However, once again the wise and daring doctors were able to fully remove the tumor.   Despite the unrealistic situations shown over the past two weeks, I do have to applaud the writers of the show for bringing awareness to brain tumors and the impact they have on families. 

During both episodes the show was able to provide some insight into the often stressful, scary, and overwhelming decisions brain tumor families and patients face.  One of the episodes showed a new father fighting his wife’s wishes for surgery so the family could spend time together before the tumor took her life.  In the other episode an exhausted and overwhelmed mother is seeking any sort of relief her daughter can get from the terrible seizures and pain her tumor causes her.  While the situations are different, when you look at both shows, the same truths are evident…brain tumors affect the entire family and not just the person with the tumor. 

While we here at Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation recognize the impact on the entire family and strive to offer services to anyone affected by a pediatric brain or spinal cord tumor, it is nice to see it portrayed on national TV, despite the sometimes unrealistic situations that are portrayed. 

If you saw these episodes, we are interested to hear what you thought about the portrayal of these families and their outcomes. 

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