Watching Disney movies during chemotherapy may improve quality of life for women with gynecologic cancer
Just a spoonful of sugar from Mary Poppins during cancer treatment might have an effect, after all.
Watching Disney movies during six cycles of chemotherapy appeared to improve emotional and social functioning — as well as symptoms of fatigue — among a cohort of women with gynecologic cancer, according to study results published in JAMA Network Open.
“When comparing the course of patients’ answers on their emotional functioning, social functioning and fatigue status from the first treatment to the last, the participants in the Disney group felt better than those in the control group,” Johannes Ott, MD, researcher in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Medical University of Vienna in Austria, and colleagues wrote. “Moreover, when comparing the results with the normative data for the EORTC [Quality of Life Questionnaire Core-30] in nononcologic women aged 50 to 59 years, it is remarkable that — before the intervention — both the control group and Disney group rated their emotional and social functioning and their global health status below levels of published data, whereas only the Disney group rated their status above levels of published data after the sixth chemotherapy session and Disney movie.”
Investigators conducted the study to assess whether watching Disney movies during chemotherapy affected emotional and social functioning, as well as fatigue status, among women with gynecologic cancers.
The study included 50 women aged older than 18 years who completed six cycles of chemotherapy with either carboplatin and paclitaxel or carboplatin and pegylated liposomal doxorubicin. Researchers excluded women if they had inadequate knowledge of the German language or received other chemotherapy regimens.
Between December 2017 and December 2018, researchers randomly assigned the women to watch one of eight Disney movies (n = 25; mean age, 59 years; mean BMI, 24.3) or watch no movies (n =25; mean age, 62 years; mean BMI, 26) during each cycle of chemotherapy at a cancer center in Vienna. The films included German language versions of “Cinderella,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “The Sword in the Stone,” “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,” “Aristocats,” “Robin Hood” and “The Little Mermaid.” Women completed standardized EORTC questionnaires before and after every treatment cycle.
Changes in quality of life as defined by the EORTC Core-30 questionnaire and fatigue as defined by the EORTC Quality of Life Questionnaire Fatigue during six cycles of chemotherapy served as the primary endpoints.
Results showed after all six cycles, women in the Disney group reported feeling less tense and worried less compared with patients in the control group (mean emotional functioning score, 86.9 vs. 66.3; maximum test P = .02). In addition, women in the Disney group reported less infringement on family life and social activities (mean social functioning score, 86.1 vs. 63.6; maximum test P = .01), as well as fewer fatigue symptoms (mean fatigue scores, 85.5 vs. 66.4; maximum test P = .01).
Perceived global health status did not appear to be linked to watching Disney movies (mean score, 75.9 vs. 61).
Researchers also observed a statistically significant increase in quality of life in the Disney group, with mean EORTC Core-30 Summary Score rising from 72 before the first cycle of chemotherapy to 88.4 after the last cycle, compared with 69.3 before treatment to 70 after in the control group (P = .001).
The perception of quality of life among the Disney group after completing chemotherapy was higher than that of healthy controls within the same age range.
“This is a surprising result, which we find hard to interpret,” Ott and colleagues wrote. “Hypothetically, it may be associated with a short-term effect of the movies on patients’ self-perception and hope. The latter has already been claimed to be positively correlated with quality of life among adult oncologic patients.”
The lack of a third study group that watched movies, the inability to draw conclusions on the persistent effect of the Disney films, and the fact that the control group was not allowed to watch any movies at all served as study limitations.
“[Disney] movies contain catchy songs, likeable characters and memorable phrases and scenes. This may bring back a feeling of relief,” researchers wrote. “Moreover, watching movies on a portable DVD player is an easy and affordable tool.” – by Jennifer Southall
Disclosures: Ott reports personal fees and remuneration for lecturing from Lenus Pharma GesmbH outside the submitted work. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.