‘I wish I had breast cancer’ campaign draws flak

Objectively, pancreatic cancer is one of the worst types of cancer someone can get, with a survival rate of only 3 percent.

But when the United Kingdom charity Pancreatic Cancer Action released an ad campaign depicting patients wishing they had other cancers—all with higher survival rates—representatives from other organizations did not take it well.

In one ad, the words “I wish I had breast cancer” are written in a huge font next to pancreatic cancer patient Kerry Harvey’s somber face.

“While the intention of the campaign is great, the adverts are hugely upsetting and incredibly insensitive and divisive,” Dyleth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, told CivilSociety last week.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said, “I’ve yet to meet a man or woman with breast cancer who would consider themselves in any way fortunate to have received a diagnosis.”

Writing in The Guardian, Pancreatic Cancer Action Chief Executive Ali Stunt explained that the ad, which the organization created with the firm Team Darwin, was designed to spark debate.

“With a limited budget, it was vital that the advert would stand out and provoke thought and initiate discussion among members of the public, the media, and influencers,” she wrote. “The decision to run this campaign was not taken lightly, and we carried out a fair amount of research to understand what the likely reaction was going to be.”

She went on to say that the reactions depicted in the ads aren’t too far removed from what people really feel when they find out they have pancreatic cancer:

As taboo as it may sound, when faced with a 3 percent chance of surviving more than five years, it is not unreasonable to wish for a cancer with a better survival rate. This is exactly how I felt when I was diagnosed with the disease in 2007.

Still, the campaign may not be getting Pancreatic Cancer Action UK the attention it really wants. Almost every comment on the organization’s Facebook page is deeply critical of the campaign.

“Shame on you for making cancer a contest,” wrote someone who said she was living with cervical cancer. 

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