Are ANs worth a movie?

Tue, Apr. 14, 1998 - Today's issue of the Wall Street Journal has an interesting front-page article about the growing popularity of using TV shows, such as ER or soaps, to highlight specific health problems, such as weird heart conditions or uncommon cancers, as a combination of drama and public education.

The article specifically said that brain tumors are viewed as "interesting" diseases worth covering;  well, here is a great scenario involving AN:


A beautiful famous woman athlete in her 20's, an olympic hopeful, is diagnosed with AN; her only symptoms are tittinus and slight one-sided hearing loss. She is referred to a surgeon, does some homework, and discovers that she is facing a significant risk of permanent dizziness, fatigue, headache, facial paralysis, all the typical stuff - in short, her whole career might go down the drain, even with the best of surgeons.

(To be fair, it is emphasized that this does not mean she is actually guaranteed those complications. Indeed, there is a good chance that after taking a few months off, she will be able to get back to her olympic dream. But it's a significant risk -- and can she afford to take that risk?)

Now, a ray of hope: she finds out ANs usually grow slowly or not at all. But 3 months later, the next MRI shows that she is one of the unlucky ones, since women of childbearing age are usually the ones that make the exception to the slow-growth rule. With olympics looming, she is desperate.

Then, her trainers do some more homework and come upon FSR. (Here, we give Gen X'ers something to identify with, since the "homework" includes getting on the Internet and making use of the wonderful AN resources available on-line)This treatment is rather new, and the anxiety over this fact is pretty real, but it looks the most promising, so she decides to give it a try.

After long-distance consultations, she flies to some East-coast city and gets the procedure done. The very day of her last session, she flies to Europe for the last pre-olympic training stretch, no worse for the treatment, and wins silver, narrowly losing to some Russian or German (room for some more drama).


How is that? The viewers get a beautiful drama, based completely on true facts. They also get a great education on ANs, and all the options and complications facing patients. One snag: usually, at the end of these shows, there is a number to call to get all the medical facts behind the story. But for ANs, there is no such number. ANA's treatment options literature gives very light shrift to watch-and-wait and radiosurgery, and does not even mention FSR. I guess if they gave out both ANA's and IRSA's numbers?

Last Edited: Wednesday, October 30, 2002