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Saturday 21 September 2019

'I am truly sorry if we have caused hurt', says cancer campaign chief

Irish Cancer Society boss John McCormack
Irish Cancer Society boss John McCormack
Jane Last

Jane Last

The chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society is "truly sorry" for the hurt its recent hard-hitting advertising campaign caused, but said it sparked much-needed debate about the disease.

John McCormack said the "I Want To Get Cancer" initiative launched last month on broadcast, print and social media platforms had prompted "a debate on cancer in Ireland that we have not seen for a very long time".

Mr McCormack said they had spoken with dozens of cancer patients who had urged them to continue with the campaign.

Family members of loved ones who had died from cancer said that if such a campaign had been launched a few years ago, their relatives and friends might still be with them.

"My team and I also deal with some very difficult calls," said Mr McCormack.

"People reached out to us as they were hurt by our campaign and it reignited a grief that was so very hard to bear.

"This was often a direct consequence of the cancer diagnosis that the person, their friend or their family had received.

"On behalf of the society, I want to acknowledge the hurt that our campaign may have caused people. That was never our intention .

"And to anyone that has lost a loved one to cancer, I am truly sorry.

"Cancer takes far too many lives, and being reminded of its destruction can make people feel vulnerable and raw.

"But I would like to get one thing absolutely clear, and that is that this campaign was undertaken to save lives.

"That was our one and only motivation.

"While the merits of our campaign were being debated in the papers and on the airwaves, 150 people a day were hearing the words, 'You have cancer'.

"One person every three minutes - that's 40,000 people a year."

The society said it had reached 4.5 million people through traditional media and another 700,000 engaged with its video on Facebook.


Mr McCormack said he hoped the campaign would prompt more people to avail of screening services, which can detect cancer at an earlier stage, thus increasing a person's odds of successful treatment.

"But is everyone taking action? Almost six out of every 10 people eligible for the State's free BowelScreen programme are not engaging with it," he said.

"Four out of 10 cancers can be prevented, but these figures would suggest not.

"We need to inspire people to take action. We have a duty of care to do so, however difficult that conversation may sometimes be."


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