I get a lot of ridiculous press releases, but the headline that made its way to my inbox today, “New Cancer-Fighting Game App Goes Global,” represented a new level of nonsense. The press release described a “ground-breaking” smartphone “cancer-fighting game app” that promised to “help young cancer patients fight their disease.”
If you’re like me, you’re thinking — how on earth can an app fight cancer? Here’s how an MD quoted in the press release explains it. “[These] games are a fun way to help you understand what it takes to fight the disease. Playing these games can help you or someone you care about fight and beat cancer.”
According to the press release, a brain-imaging study shows that,
a video game about killing cancer in the body strongly activates brain circuits involved in positive motivation. This reward-related activation is associated with a shift in attitudes and emotions that helped boost players’ adherence to prescribed chemotherapy and antibiotic treatments in a previous study.
Let’s take a moment to review this message to the young cancer patient.
1) It’s your responsibility to understand what it takes to fight this disease.
2) It’s up to you to fight and beat cancer.
3) Positive motivation will help you overcome cancer.
It’s hard to imagine what kind of person thought it was a good idea to put the onus on a child to fight his or her cancer. A cancer diagnosis is difficult enough without the pressure to view cancer as an opponent to be fought and defeated. Framing cancer as a war that the patient is responsible for fighting implies a level of personal control unsupported by science. You can do everything in your power to fight cancer, like Karen Hornbostel or Rachel Cheetham Moro did, but cancer doesn’t give a rip. The scientific evidence shows that the best way to survive cancer is to get a kind that’s not too aggressive and responds to treatment.
Surviving cancer is not a matter of personal virtue, it’s a matter of genetics and luck. The suggestion that kids like Vin-Vin need video games to teach them how to fight cancer is cruel and absurd. Children with cancer need love and support, not training for war.
Image via Shutterstock.