The U.K.-based Pancreatic Cancer Action launched a controversial public service announcement that got the attention of the media and cancer advocates worldwide. LBBC’s Janine E. Guglielmino, MA, director, publications and strategic initiatives, writes about the campaign, and the importance of finding commonality in the cancer advocacy community.
Many of you have already seen the controversial public service announcement “I Wish I Had …” from the U.K.-based Pancreatic Cancer Action. The video PSA opens with a man and a woman, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, wishing they had been diagnosed with testicular or breast cancer instead. Next, scrolling text shows the 5-year overall survival rate for pancreatic cancer, which in the U.S. ranges from 14 percent in stage I to 1 percent in stage IV.
The ad is powerful, but it is also wrongheaded and insensitive. It paints breast cancer as a single disease, and reinforces the pervasive and incorrect belief that breast cancer survival outcomes are universally high. It minimizes the physical and emotional trauma breast and testicular cancers leave in their wake. And it dismisses the tragedy of the approximately 530,000 people worldwide who die each year from these two diseases.
Above all, the campaign pits cancers against one another. As one of my LBBC colleagues noted, the ad suggests a disease hierarchy, a ranking of “good” cancers against “bad.” But all metastatic cancers kill, regardless of body part. As an advocacy community, does it really serve our cause to act as though we’re having a schoolyard fistfight about whose life-threatening disease is most terrible?
A better option is to reach across the aisle. As we learn more about the genetic makeup of cancers, the site of origin will become less and less important. We need to consider our common goal of ending death and suffering from cancer. Breast cancer advocates are a large, diverse and well organized community. By sharing our experiences with those facing other cancer types, we might think differently about our own cause—and, together, push for greater societal change. We should be searching for shared ground, not picking each other apart.
P.S. If you are interested in learning more about pancreatic cancer, please visit the website of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. PANCAN is unrelated to Pancreatic Cancer Action and is based in the United States.
What do you think about the “I Wish I Had” campaign? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.