LIVESTRONG Anti-Stigma Campaigns
The LIVESTRONG Foundation is working to reduce the stigma and silence associated with cancer by empowering cancer survivors and their families to share their cancer experiences with their communities. Our goal with our anti-stigma campaigns is to illustrate that cancer is not necessarily a ‘death sentence;’ that it can be survivable with early detection and proper treatment; and that cancer survivors can lead healthy, productive lives during and after cancer.
In 2007–2008, the Foundation conducted rigorous research across 10 countries including more than 4,500 interviews with health care providers, cancer survivors, NGOs and other experts in order to better understand global perceptions of cancer. The data showed that cancer continues to carry a significant stigma worldwide.
What is cancer stigma?
Cancer stigma refers to a negative or undesirable perception of a person affected by cancer. Stigma can be internal—it can affect self-perception of survivors, causing guilt, blame or shame. It can also be enacted, causing discrimination, loss of employment or income, or social isolation. It can come from misinformation, lack of awareness and deeply-engrained myths.
Why target cancer stigma?
In many societies and cultures, the stigma and mystery that surround cancer is so great that the word “cancer” is rarely used and the disease is not talked about openly. Stigma, fear, and silence around cancer are barriers that often affect a survivor’s cancer journey and quality of life. Forty-one percent of people interviewed stated that the fear of a diagnosis was the main challenge preventing them from receiving cancer screenings. Delaying or avoiding medical support often causes poorer prognoses and increased suffering and death.
Stigma doesn’t just affect individuals. It also plays a role at the national level. Governments are less likely to devote resources and funds to improve their cancer care system if the people affected by the disease don’t voice their needs and advocate for themselves.
How do the campaigns work?
The Foundation conducted anti-stigma campaigns in South Africa and Mexico in 2010–2012 to encourage both personal and public dialogue about cancer and to reduce the culture of fear around the disease. In each of these initial 18-month pilot programs, we launched media campaigns and conducted intensive community education and training efforts, empowering cancer survivors to speak out about their experiences and share their cancer stories. Each campaign was created with guidance and partnership of local stakeholders to be culturally relevant and sustainable
What impact did the campaigns have?
The anti-stigma campaigns empowered cancer survivors to share their stories, educated communities, reached hundreds of millions of people with inspiring messages and changed perceptions about cancer.
Where can I get more information if I am interested in launching a similar campaign?
For more information, email Rebekkah Schear, Program Manager for International Programs: Rebekkah.Schear@LIVESTRONG.org.