Awareness days – doing harm as well as good?

Categories: Care.

Today is World Cancer Day. No doubt tomorrow and the week after will be some other profile raising event for another illness.

I am personally not keen on the concept of special days for any disease and worry that the images used to frighten the general public into donating money give many conditions a terrifying reputation.

In my past I’ve experienced this with the diabetes that I’ve had since a child. Sadly I’ve been a long-term patient and recipient of healthcare for this and have watched having diabetes badly portrayed in adverts and as a storylines in various TV programmes. Often incredibly inaccurate the “sufferers ” are portrayed as struggling, liable to dramatic organ failure, on weird diets and liable to strange fits and this is not in fact the way people like myself live normally alongside their diabetes.

Cancer also seems to encourage programmers to portray the disease in many frightening ways, often with the patient bald and extremely pale and thin. Adverts on the TV and billboards supposedly designed to raise cancer awareness actually feature frightening diagnostic statistics or show terrified patients being “helped” by charity funded specialist services. Others introduce the concept of there being the possibility of fighting and beating a disease – but only if we donate enough money to their cause.

I guess, or at least hope, that the experts in these areas have evidence that this approach does in fact have the desired effect on donations.

Unfortunately my husband and I find these adverts extremely upsetting and I wonder if others feel the same?

They are negative and depressing and don’t reflect the treatment I have experienced at all. Many of the problems one experiences as a patient are the preconceived ideas of what having cancer is all about.

The “big C” terrifies friends and family as it conjures up these images of a bald, weak and sick looking person in a hospital gown attached to a drip.

Cancer treatment has progressed a very long way and these images are now outdated but sadly remain the ones that everyone uses and so are reinforced every day. If we continue to use fear as a way to raise funds for these disease related charities then this will continue to be the case and is so wrong.

Getting people to recognise symptoms early and seek help and to understand that treatments are better and actually work is what is important.

Helping them to understand how much there is out there to help those of us who cannot be cured will remove the fear of this disease and potentially help those who are sadly diagnosed.

Positive thought is very important and so improving attitudes to cancer will be of benefit in more ways than just raising money.

I hope today’s cancer awareness day does what it aims to do from a positive rather than negative point of view and that fundraisers in the future learn how this can be just as useful in fund raising.

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