‘Awareness’ Campaigns

I’ve never been that keen on campaigns with the major aim of ‘raising awareness’ of health conditions, particularly when it comes to cancer. I think most of us who have been#diagnosed with cancer, or have seen a family member or close friend diagnosed, are far too painfully aware of it. Awareness can seem trite, when what you really want is for life to go back to ‘normal’ – wearing a particular colour on a particular day, or a wristband, may not actually seem to make a real difference to people’s lives, even if the money does go into potentially life enhancing or even life saving research. The 1st of October happens to be ‘wear grey for brain tumours’ day (organised, I believe by the Brains Trust – https://brainstrust.org.uk/) and while part of its purpose is to raise awareness, it does also fund research – and although I think people are much more likely to donate when they or someone they care about are directly affected, more funding into research can only be a good thing. Of course, that funding *should* come from the state, and not be left to individuals or charities to fill in the gaps, but that’s probably an issue for another day…


wear grey for a day


Different types of cancer have very different levels of funding, awareness, diagnosis rates and survival rates – it took me a while to get diagnosed, as I’ve written about on this blog before, and I know other people with similar experiences. In fact, I think most cases I’ve heard about are more similar to mine than not – this still surprises me, over a year after going to hospital in Italy.I do always stress that I’ve had excellent care since being properly diagnosed, and that the NHS is underfunded and overstretched, but more awareness into various different types of cancer (especially rarer ones) does mean increased funding and that can lead to scientific breakthroughs and advances. I believe that was the case with breast cancer – as people were made more aware of it, research funding increased and with it, survival rates. Awareness also means people knowing what to look out for – although this isn’t always accurate or helpful, being able to go to the doctor and say ‘I think I’ve found a lump’ might be easier than saying ‘well, I’ve been experiencing x, y and z but I don’t know if they’re connected or not’. Increased awareness can also mean increased support for people living with cancer, and their friends and families.


Even uncommon cancers aren’t that uncommon – every day, 29 people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour, compared to about 150 with breast cancer and 129 with prostate cancer. I’m not sure if brain cancer has got more common lately or if I just notice it more, but it does feel like lots of books I read or tv I watch feature someone with a brain tumour – this happens without me even seeking it out. On Saturday, there was even a piece on the radio about a young woman diagnosed with a brain tumour. In the last few years, the statistic I’ve been told changed from one in three people being diagnosed with some form of cancer to one in two. One in three was already a huge number, and one in two is almost too many to comprehend. We probably all know someone, whether a colleague, a family member or even ourselves, who has a very similar story to tell. I’m still fairly uncomfortable with talk of awareness raising – I’d personally quite like it if if I were a lot less aware! – and I still don’t think it’s enough. It’s often the first step though.

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