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Breast cancer tends to get lots of attention in our nation, and rightly so, but the women's cancers that hit "below the belt," so to speak, are rarely discussed. More than 90,000 women are diagnosed each year with a gynecological cancer. That's the same amount of men diagnosed yearly with prostate cancer, though all these gynecological cancers combined (cervical, ovarian, vulvar, vaginal, and endometrial/uterine) receive only 50 percent of the funding that prostate cancer receives.
A new film by Spark Media, a D.C.-based production company highlights a group of oncology surgeons who specialize in treating these cancers. And they do so not only through surgery and chemo, but also, through music. Metro Connection's Emily Berman interviewed the film's director, Andrea Kalin about how her film is raising awareness of these often-overlooked diseases. Following are highlights of their conversation.
What's the experience of being at an N.E.D. concert? Are fans exclusively patients of the doctors?
Andrea Kalin: "The fans are mainly patients, but also friends and family of the doctors and patients. They call themselves 'N.E.D. Heads' and will shave 'NED' into their just sprouting hair after a chemo regime. They'll tattoo 'NED' on their breasts. They're incredibly excited to be able to see their doctors in a different context."
How did you get patients to share their stories while going through such a sensitive time?
Kalin: "So much attention is paid to breast cancer, that they were willing to embrace a crew that could break through the silence of a disease they were suffering from, but no one really knows about. There's an acute mission with this film. We want people to start talking about things that are uncomfortable."
"I think the release valve that the doctors get from the music is really important. As surgeons, [they have] an incredibly vicious schedule with outcomes that are less than optimistic. One-third of their patients die. And for patients, I think it helps them see the humanity of their doctors."
"N.E.D." is screening on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at Landmark Bethesda Row in downtown Bethesda, and if you want to hear the band play live, they're performing in at Penn Social in downtown D.C. on Saturday, Nov. 2.
[Music: "Rhythm Heals" by N.E.D. from No Evidence of Disease]