If 10,000 women saw a TV series, and half of them went for a mammogram, at least 15,000 people, including the women's families, would benefit.
So says director Guan Hu of his latest TV drama, It is Good to be Alive (Huozhe Zhenhao). As the first Chinese TV series spotlighting breast cancer, the 44-episode drama will premiere during prime time on CCTV-8 since February 29.
Guan already had the idea of creating such a series when a longtime friend's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon seeing the shock and trauma the family faced first-hand, Guan immediately began working on the script with writer Zhao Dongling.
The plot revolves around a large family with the medical history of breast cancer, and one character's story was adapted from the real-life experience of Guan's friend.
"The show's foremost objective is to raise awareness about the disease among viewers and to urge them to care for their health before it is too late," Guan says.
Recent figures show that 200,000 of China's 630 million women are diagnosed with the disease annually, says Xu Guangwei, honorary director of the Chinese Anti-Cancer Association. And 40,000 among those diagnosed die from it every year.
A concerning medical trend is that the patients are becoming younger and younger. The disease garnered public attention last year when it claimed the life of Chen Xiaoxu, the actress well known for her portrayal of Lin Daiyu, a main character in Chinese classical novel A Dream of the Red Mansion (Honglou Meng).
Guan researched articles and documentaries about the disease, which he introduced to the crew, in addition to inviting those suffering from the cancer to share their feelings with the actors.
"I never felt breast cancer was so close to me before I joined the project," says Guan's wife Liang Jing, who plays the youngest daughter in the series. After reading the script, Liang and most other female crewmembers took a physical together.