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Cancer is Not a Competition

Published on | Kylie Chin


Salon.com published an article a few weeks ago that took on an ad campaign created by the British organization, Pancreatic Cancer Action (PCA). The ad uses shock value, as many “awareness” campaigns do, to depict women and men “wishing” for breast and testicular cancer over pancreatic cancer. All of the adverts feature real pancreatic cancer patients who genuinely feel that way, according to statements released to The Guardian. The campaign was launched this month and will appear in newspapers and subway stations throughout the UK, as well as a video clip they hope goes viral online.

The campaign’s intent is clearly aimed at comparing the meager 3 percent survival rate of pancreatic cancer to the 85 percent survival rate of breast cancer. The PCA published their own article in reaction to the minor uproar, justifying the potentially offensive campaign by reminding everyone that while pancreatic cancer is the UK’s fifth biggest killer among cancer it is vastly misunderstood and chronically underfunded.

Team Darwin, the marketing agency that created the campaign for PCA for free, intended to provoke thought and initiate discussion in the public, media and influencers—attempting to reflect the genuine insight of many pancreatic cancer patients upon diagnosis.

No matter what side of the debate you fall on, the Salon article did bring up a good point. “Cancer is not a competition.” Not all cancer is equal—that is true. We weigh the staging, the invasiveness and duration of treatments and pass judgment. To yearn for a type of cancer that provides the afflicted an 85 percent chance of survival—as opposed to 3 percent—is completely understandable. However, to cheapen someone’s life-altering experience by “wishing” for their type of cancer can be viewed as offensive. The PCA’s campaign did help raise awareness for a disease more than 50 percent of patients were completely unaware of it’s existence before being diagnosed—but the question is:

Could the PCA have advocated for early detection and increased awareness without throwing other cancer patients under the bus because they have the “good kind of cancer?”

As the I Hate Cancer blog says,

“If you’re going to wish for breast cancer, make sure you put in a special request for the non-metastatic kind. Because in 2014, there is no cure.”

In the comments below, we’d love to hear your opinion of the PCA’s ad campaign and how you think it helps raise awareness through shock.

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