Cancers: the Cité des sciences dares to explore the “monster”

published on Monday, September 05, 2022 at 10:22

The plural is important: cancers are exhibited at the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie in Paris, which explores, with tact and precision, all the facets of this complex disease still surrounded by taboos.

The challenge was overwhelming: “to show the disease in a science museum, putting our noses into a dark part of our humanity that we don’t want to see,” confesses Maud Gouy, co-curator of the exhibition on the September 6 poster. , 2022 to August 8, 2023, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute (INCa).

But cancer, one of the main national causes, “affects us all, from near or far”, argues the public: today, almost four million people live or have had the experience of cancer in France, where for a 30 years, the total number of new cases has been increasing (but mortality is decreasing).

“+ Cancers + is the first major exhibition dedicated to the disease, with the ambition to explore its different facets in order to look this monster in the face and break taboos, without distressing or diluting the subject”, explains Laurence Caunézil, co-curator.

In 600 square meters, cancers (because no two cancers are the same, the Cité des sciences insists) are approached from a scientific, medical, social and even political angle.

An unexpected installation welcomes the visitor at the entrance: a large crab (“cancer” means “crab” in Latin) shows us that it is a biological phenomenon that appeared 500 million years ago with the appearance of the first multicellular organisms. In short, it is inherent to the living.

Then the tour invites you to wander from room to room in an intimate setting, according to factual and didactic audiovisual installations. Nothing “fun”, the establishment did not want to “play” with the disease. The exhibition is also recommended only from the age of 14.

– “They were doing” –

Lying under a dome, you can learn about carcinogenesis, the genetic process involved in the formation of malignant tumors that has its origin in a DNA mutation.

Understand the difference between a scanner, an MRI, a PET-Scan. Discover research on future treatments, such as that of fibroblasts, cells that are likely to improve response to immunotherapy. Or the work on the social and geographic disparities of cancer, a “political disease” to which certain populations are more exposed than others, as the cases of asbestos and chlordecone have shown.

The exhibition makes a useful comment on prevention, “without making the public feel guilty”, according to Maud Gouy.

With in its heart testimonials from patients, caregivers and caregivers, many of which are moving and above all give hope. “It’s not that we have metastatic cancer that we’re screwed, a recurrence of the colon with metastases in the liver is curable,” says a man with a colorectal tumor in front of the camera.

“Cancer does not mean death right away, many get away with it and it must be said,” reacted Alexandra Mariez, 36, a triple-negative breast cancer patient, who was invited to the press visit to the exhibition. Creator of the Instagram account “Allons-and prevention” and ambassador of the Geneticancer association, she believes that talking about cancers in the plural is essential because “it means taking into account all the people involved”.

Mélanie Hannouche, 43, who also went through this ordeal, welcomes the scale of the project. “When I received the invitation from the Cité des sciences and saw that the exhibition was going to last ten months, I told myself that we were finally going to talk about it with the general public!”, says the founder of the “Piel , association account post -cancer”.

Because “outside of social networks, addressing the subject is extremely taboo among young people,” laments this interior decorator, who today takes portraits of women in turbans in hospitals to “change the look” about the disease.

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