Breast cancer charities slam 'divisive' Pancreatic Cancer Action campaign

Breast cancer charities slam 'divisive' Pancreatic Cancer Action campaign

Breast cancer charities slam 'divisive' Pancreatic Cancer Action campaign4

Fundraising | Kirsty Weakley | 6 Feb 2014

Breast cancer charities have hit out at Pancreatic Cancer Action’s advertising campaign for using the slogan ‘I wish I had breast cancer’.

Running with a print advert and TV commercial, Pancreatic Cancer Action’s campaign aims to raise awareness of the poor survival rates for people with the disease by comparing it to other types of cancer with better survival rates. In doing so, however, it has attracted widespread criticism from organisations and individuals who say the campaign is divisive and insensitive.

Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said she was “shocked and saddened” by the advert. While raising awareness of the poor survival rates for pancreatic cancer is important, she said, “doing so in this way, Pancreatic Cancer Action has belittled the impact of other cancers”.

“While the intention of the campaign is great, the adverts are hugely upsetting and incredibly insensitive and divisive,”  she said.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer responded immediately to the campaign on Facebook last night with a message from chief executive Chris Askew. In a full statement he said: “We strongly dispute any message which suggests that one type of cancer is preferable to another. 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.”

He pointed out that 12,000 people die each year from breast cancer, compared to 8,000 from pancreatic cancer, and that more than 160,000 people died as a result of cancer in 2011. “We must avoid ‘competition in cancer’ and work together to stop this unacceptable burden,” he said.

Breast Cancer Care’s chief executive Samia al Qadhi said the pitting of cancers against one another was "unhelpful". She said all charities must do more to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease. 

Prostate Cancer Action advert 

Breast cancer charities' reaction was ‘stronger reaction than I anticipated’
Pancreatic Cancer Action’s founder, and survivor of the disease, Ali Stunt, has defended the campaign’s message, saying that it was based on her own personal experience.

“[Wishing I had breast cancer] was exactly how I felt when I was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, with a 3 per cent survival rate. Even without knowing the figures I knew breast cancer had a much higher survival rate, and I wished that if I had to have been diagnosed with cancer it was one with better outcomes.”

Stunt added that she hadn’t expected the campaign to ignite such fierce debate, and told “I thought the campaign would be a little bit controversial, but the breast cancer movement’s reaction has been a lot stronger than I anticipated.

“I understand that if you just look at the headline it’s quite shocking, and I’m sorry to anyone’s who has been upset by it, but you have to read on. We are not trying to pit one cancer against another – the campaign features real people who really wished they could swap pancreatic cancer for another.”

Not everyone has been critical of the campaign, Macmillan Cancer Care has voiced its support.

Joint chief medical officer, Professor Jane Maher, said that pancreatic cancer survival rates were particularly bad, and added early diagnosis was both difficult and very  important.

"I hope this campaign will help more people to recognise those early signs and encourage them to visit their GP if they have any concerns,” she said.

22 Feb 2014

My heart goes out to everyone with cancer. however, making it seem like one is better than the other is pretty disgusting. Think of those (and their loved ones) who are battling for their lives no matter what cancer they have. My mom just passed away from breast cancer at 53years old. So thanks for making it seem like her fight wasnt as difficult, painful or heartbreaking as any other.

18 Feb 2014

My mother had breast cancer which luckily she survived as it was caught early after a routine mammogram, I know that breast cancer is no walk in the park , it's devastating to families and no cancer is easy.

However my sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after four doctors dismissed her, she died in pain, received no treatment and leaving three young children without a mother within 3 months of that diagnosis, I had never heard of that cancer, now I know it receives little funding or advertising, survival rates have not changed in 40 years, they remain at 3% survival rate, yet it is now the 5th biggest killer. I wish she didn't get cancer at all but I know which one I would have preferred her to have.

George Overton
Head of Fundraising
6 Feb 2014

The news about the ad prompted me to make a donation on their excellent website and tp sign up for news about the charity, in memory of my Dad who died of pancreatic cancer nearly 2 years ago.

Regardless of whether the ad was the right thing for the charity to do or not.

6 Feb 2014

How very squalid to see this cancer charity industry power struggle carried on in public - for gods sake, think of the children!


[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear


  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

HMRC assures charities of ‘soft landing’ approach in Common Reporting Standard guidance

26 Aug 2016

HMRC has published new Common Reporting Standard guidance, which assures charities that it will implement...

Access Foundation to invest endowment in social investment

24 Aug 2016

Access: the Foundation for Social Investment has announced it will put its endowment from the Cabinet...

Charity investigated after it did not know its own income

23 Aug 2016

The Charity Commission has opened an inquiry into a charity that underestimated its own annual income...

Commission appoints interim manager to dissolve charity being investigated over investment tactics

26 Aug 2016

The Charity Commission has appointed an interim manager to oversee the winding up of the Park Charitable...

Association of Charitable Foundations' chief executive will step down this year

25 Aug 2016

David Emerson is stepping down as chief executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations later this...

Charity Commission should ‘avoid the temptation to look tough’ when it starts disqualifying trustees

24 Aug 2016

Other infrastructure bodies have joined NCVO in raising concerns about how the Charity Commission might...

Free HR system to launch for charities

25 Aug 2016

A free human resources system designed for charities will launch next month and is currently being trialled...

RSPCA ranked fourth in global charity social media brand index

19 Aug 2016

A new social media index has said that the RSPCA has the fourth best digital charity brand globally, with...

Charity Commission retracts story which indicated it would no longer publish all accounts

18 Aug 2016

The Charity Commission has published a news story announcing it will no longer display documents received...

Join the discussion

Twitter button