Breast Cancer Now withdraws 'rude, ill-informed and crass' campaign video

Vicky Saynor, a breast cancer patient, says the video for the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign shows unrealistic representations of the disease

A still from the video
A still from the video

Breast Cancer Now has withdrawn an advertising campaign video and apologised after a group of cancer survivors criticised it for being "rude", "ill-informed" and "crass" in the way it presented those with the disease.

The charity has removed the video for its Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign from its website and apologised after Vicky Saynor, a cancer patient, set up the True Cancer Bodies campaign group to challenge what she saw as unrealistic representations of cancer.

The Breast Cancer Now campaign, which was supported by the retailers Marks & Spencer, River Island and Simply Be, featured smiling women hugging each other and included slogans such as "they say good things come in twos", "two is stronger than one" and "bosom buddies".

In a statement on True Cancer Bodies’ Facebook page, Saynor said: "To use such statements in a charity campaign about breast cancer, which often involves the removal of one or both breasts, is crass and indeed painful to hear for those living with breast cancer."

The showed cancer as "happy, fluffy, pink", she said, adding that if people had a more realistic view of cancer they might be motivated to check their own bodies for signs of the illness more often.

In an interview with the BBC, Saynor described the advert as "rude" and an "ill-informed misrepresentation of cancer" because it portrayed the experience as "a happy, huggy environment, and it’s not – you feel very alone".

Saynor was diagnosed with aggressive carcinoma in her right breast last year.

"I had no idea how traumatic it is and don’t feel the truth is given to the public as to how much it changes your life," she told the BBC.

As part of the campaign, True Cancer Bodies organised a photoshoot of 40 cancer patients and survivors to show the "show the real face of cancer, the ugly side as well as the beautiful".

Fiona Hazell, director of communications and influencing at Breast Cancer Now, said the video had been removed after the reaction and the charity had stopped using some of the language it contained.

"We always try to ensure that our campaigns are carried out with the utmost sensitivity to those who have been affected or who are currently affected by breast cancer, and we are very sorry for the offence caused by some of our campaign content," she said. "This was not our intention at all."

Hazell said the charity had continued with much of its planned activity to raise money for research "while also sharing a positive message of standing together against breast cancer", highlighting the role family and friends can play in supporting those affected by cancer.

"An open dialogue and debate about the realities of the disease are vitally important," she said.

"These will help raise awareness of breast cancer, portray the impact the disease has on so many lives and keep the issues that affect patients and their families high on the public agenda."

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