‘I wish I had breast cancer’ campaign causes outrage

Cancer envy. It's a term you have probably never heard before but it is at the centre of a maelstrom that has erupted in response to a UK advertising campaign.
Pancreatic cancer campaign

The UK’s first awareness advertising campaign for pancreatic cancer will be shown in London tube stations and major newspapers.

‘I wish I had breast cancer’ is the kicker in a Pancreatic cancer charity’s new campaign to raise awareness for one of the most fatal forms of the disease.

The posters and television ad feature confronting images of real pancreatic cancer patients who say ‘I wish I had testicular cancer’ or ‘I wish I had breast cancer’ as information about symptoms and survival rates appears on the screen.

Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of just three per cent – compared to 85 per cent of breast cancer patients and 97 per cent of men with testicular cancer.

The campaign has sparked outrage and condemnation as critics call it ‘horribly insensitive’ and ‘repugnant’.

Breakthough Breast Cancer’s Chief Executive, Chris Askew, responded saying “we must avoid a competition in cancer”.

“We strongly dispute any message which suggests that one type of cancer is preferable to another,” he said.

“We believe Pancreatic Cancer Action’s recent campaign does just this. 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.”

But Ali Stunt, the founder of Pancreatic Cancer Action and herself diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007, has released a combative blog post, defending the ‘hard-hitting’ campaign.

She says: “When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer age 41 in 2007 and started to understand the gravity of the disease, only a 3 per cent chance of survival and an average life expectancy of just months, I did feel at times that I wish I had a cancer that would give much better chance of survival.”

Stunt writes about a call she received from a friend who was suffering from breast cancer.

“She was telling me how grueling [sic] her treatment was and how difficult it was to cope with the diagnosis. While I was sympathetic and empathetic, I did find it very hard to listen to her tell me about how tough it was and that the side effects of her treatment were awful (which they were).

“I couldn’t help but think every now and then, ‘it’s alright for you, you have an 85% chance that you will still be here in five years time – while my odds are only 3 per cent.’ Cancer envy: I’d never have thought I would be envious of anyone with breast cancer, but I was.”

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