The star of Pancreatic Cancer Action's 'I Wish I Had Breast Cancer' campaign says she has no regrets about her decision to feature in the controversial campaign, despite a huge backlash and one death threat via Twitter.
The TV advert, which shows pancreatic cancer patients wishing they had breast or testicular cancer, has come under scrutiny from critics who believe that cancers should not be compared to one another.
"I know I upset a lot of people by saying what I did, but it’s true. If I had breast cancer rather than pancreatic cancer, it is almost certain I wouldn’t now be dying. Instead I’ve been told I’ve only got four to five months to live," said 25-year-old Kerry Harvey, one of three patients to head up the campaign.
"Hopefully the campaign will lead to more money being spent on research into pancreatic cancer. It won’t help me, but I hope it will mean others will have a better chance than I have."
She continued: "I will never regret saying it publicly. I’m not saying that breast cancer is easier to deal with.
"But I wish I had it because I would have a fighting chance of survival. In the past couple of weeks, cancer lumps have grown on my head and in my breasts so I know I won’t be coming back from this."
thanks to all those who have sent positive tweets and messages of support my way - appreciate them all! Far fewer trolls today #kerryswish
— Kerry Harvey (@KerryLou2013) February 9, 2014
While the campaign does highlight important awareness statistics - pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of just 3% - but it's attempt to play cancer top trumps - survival rates for breast cancer and testicular cancer are much higher, at 85% and 97% respectively - has come under scrutiny.
Writing for HuffPost UK Lifestyle, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign Baroness Morgan, says: "While the intention of the campaign is great, the adverts are hugely upsetting and incredibly insensitive and divisive. It has generated conversation but for the wrong reasons, and at the expense of the feelings of those affected by other cancers."
AXA’s research found that 79% of people were able to correctly identify breast lumps as a potential indicator of cancer. But a lump or swelling in any part of the body, including the armpit, neck, abdomen, groin or chest area, is worth having checked by a doctor.
Diarrhoea or changes in bowel habits are most likely to be caused by a stomach bug or eating something that disagrees with you. But if you’re noticing changes that have lasted more than a few days, for example if your bowel movements are looser for three weeks or more, or you notice any blood when you’ve been to the toilet, then make an appointment to get it checked out.
A lot of people get mouth ulcers when their immune system is low or they’re stressed. Generally they’re nothing to worry about and, as the lining of the mouth regenerates itself every couple of weeks, shouldn’t last long. But any ulcer that hasn’t healed after three weeks merits attention from your doctor or dentist. The same goes for any sore or spot that lasts for several weeks without healing – get it checked by a doctor.
Many men find it more difficult to pass urine as they get older, needing to go more often or urgently or being unable to go when they need to. These problems are usually caused by an enlarged prostate, which is a common condition that is not in itself cause for concern. But occasionally these symptoms can be a sign of prostate cancer – either way, men experiencing these symptoms should see their GP. Similarly, while urinary tract infections are the most likely cause of women having pain or difficulty passing urine, this should pass relatively quickly. If it doesn’t, then any sudden urges to pass urine or the need to go more often should be discussed with your doctor.
It’s natural for most people’s weight to fluctuate over time. But if you haven’t instigated any changes in your diet or exercise regime and have obviously lost weight, then talk to your doctor. And if you’re experiencing heavy night sweats you should seek medical advice – these don’t always have a sinister cause, and can be brought about by certain infections or medications, but they’re worth checking.
If you’ve coughed up any blood, you should see your doctor, regardless of the amount of blood or frequency. It can be a sign of lung cancer, so needs to be checked out.
Most of us will experience coughs or croaky voices at some point, normally when we’ve had a cold. But as with many other changes to your body, anything that hasn’t gone away after three weeks or so should be investigated.
AXA’s research found women were more likely than men to identify key cancer warning signs, including breast lumps, changes in bowel habits and irregular moles. But for both men and women, ensuring you’re aware of symptoms to keep an eye out for is important. Knowledge is power: understanding what you’re looking for means you can any changes checked out quickly.
AXA’s research found only 6% of men and 3% of women check their bodies daily for anything unusual. But understanding what’s normal for your own body is essential if you’re to spot when anything has changed. If you do notice changes that are persisting for a long time, or causing you pain and discomfort, then see your GP.
A sizeable 61% of people AXA spoke to admitted they’d delayed seeing their doctor when they spotted changes that could be potential flags for cancer. But early detection of any problems can make a huge difference if any treatment is then needed. Similarly, if changes are harmless your doctor will be able to reassure you. Overall, the sooner you go to see your GP, the better.
CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Action Ali Stunt, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007, has defended the campaign.
Speaking to the MailOnline she said: "When I was diagnosed I was horrified to learn the survival rate and actually found myself wishing I had a different type of cancer.
"I understand that any type of cancer is a horrible, horrible disease - not least metastatic breast cancer - and would not wish cancer on anyone."
The charity issued the following statement on their Facebook page last week.