Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Is one type of cancer worse than any other ?

Last week there was a brief contretemps in the national press both newspaper and television, regarding the advert created by Pancreatic Action to highlight their charity and goals.

Can I suggest that you watch the advert (follow this link).

Te basic premise in the advert campaign is to raise the issue of the severity and poor survival rates for pancreatic cancer and uses the conceit of pancreatic cancer patients 'wishing' that they had other forms of cancer such as breast cancer or testicular cancer.

The outcry seems to have been broadly caused by this comparison with the press seeming to imply that it is unfair to compare and in some way this belittles or offends other cancer survivors or patients.

I personally had the misfortune of watching the inept presenters on DayBreak (ITV's breakfast, and I use the term here in its loosest possible sense, 'News' program) last Thursday morning interviewing a representative from the cancer charity under discussion and asking her had she thought of the feelings of people with other forms of cancer ? The two presenters actually made a senior representative of a cancer charity justify raising the profile of her condition/charity on national TV and I for one found it uncomfortable viewing.

This negative attitude is to miss the point absolutely. The premise of the advert is that pancreatic cancer is different to other cancers, not better or worse necessarily, but rather different in terms of survivability and so those diagnosed with it really might wish they had received a different diagnosis/prognosis that you or I, as healthy individuals might still find devastating. It is not only fair to compare and contrast differing clinical outcomes but vital. This is how progress is made and research is moved forwards.

Of the 22 most common cancers in the UK pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rates and less than 1% of UK research money goes to this type of cancer.

There is an interesting table on this website showing the diagnosis rates and deaths from common cancers in the USA in 2013. Interestingly, of the 12 cancers shown, pancreatic cancer has the lowest number of diagnoses at 45,220 but the third highest mortality rate at 38,460. Only breast and lung cancer cause more deaths but both have more than 200,000 new cases each each year.

So maybe it would be better to get lung cancer than pancreatic cancer ?

No one wants anyone to get any kind of cancer, that is a given. Unfortunately it is also a fact of human existence is that these cancer do exist. So my view would be that the people, mainly the press, who are detractors of this advert should, politely, get the hell over themselves. The ad and the sentiment it expresses is in my opinion valid and more than achieves its goal - which is to begin a discussion of this vitally important subject. Even if the smaller minded cannot understand the more subtle nuance of the campaign.

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