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Cancer: It Is Not a Competition

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This week I, like many, was shocked and saddened to be faced by an advert with the slogan "I wish I had breast cancer".

Part of a campaign by Pancreatic Cancer Action, the aim was to highlight the poor survival rates of pancreatic cancer. It's an important issue to address, however by doing so in this way, Pancreatic Cancer Action has belittled the impact of other cancers.

There clearly is an urgent need to raise the profile of pancreatic cancer. The shocking statistics highlight the fact that too little is known about it and much more needs to be done to increase awareness and early diagnosis to help save lives. In the UK, 8000 people are given the news they have pancreatic cancer each year and sadly there is only a three per cent survival rate for those diagnosed.

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.

The slogan "I wish I had breast cancer" suggests that breast cancer isn't serious.

But breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. Every year, 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 12,000 die from the disease in the UK alone.

Around 570,000 people are thought to be living with or after a breast cancer diagnosis. For those that survive, many live with the life-altering side-effects from treatment, including infertility issues, chronic joint pain and severe hot flushes, as well as the fear of the disease returning, which can happen many years after active treatment. My own sister was given an 87% chance of survival only to be diagnosed with secondary breast cancer after five years.

Secondary breast cancer, where the disease has spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver and brain, is not yet preventable or curable. Ultimately, this is the main reason why people die from the disease.

Anyone who has lost a loved one to this disease or is facing a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer themselves certainly wouldn't wish they, or anyone else, had breast cancer - or any other type of cancer.

This week there was so much to be proud of in the world of cancer. It was World Cancer Day on Tuesday and the disease was at the top of the news agenda. Collectively voices were raising the issues of all cancers and the need to do much, much more. It is a shame that this campaign mars this collaborative ethos.

A diagnosis of any type of cancer is devastating for patients and their families, and we should all be working together to end cancer.

Charities play a vital role in raising awareness of early diagnosis and hard-hitting campaigns can be effective in this aim. However, charities do have a choice about how to do this, considering the thoughts and feelings of many who could be affected. Yes it has got people talking but at the expense of distress to others and I am not convinced that is a fair or necessary price to pay.

Collaboration is key - it's only by working together that we can overcome cancer quicker which is vital if future generations are not to drown in the tidal wave of cancer coming our way.

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