Cancer Stigma and Silence Around the World: A LIVESTRONG Report

In 2007, LIVESTRONG executed a global cancer research study intended to give people affected by cancer a chance to share their cancer experiences and their perspectives on the cancer problem—a problem that is too often shrouded by stigma and silence.

For the study, LIVESTRONG collected multiple sources of data—including an analysis of media coverage, public opinion surveys, and semi-structured interviews—from countries around the world to better understand how cancer is portrayed and perceived. Argentina, Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa were included in the study. The results of the global research are presented across three categories: General Perceptions of Cancer; Stigma and Myths About Cancer; and Evidence of and Opportunities for Progress.

Six “lessons learned” were derived from the global research results:
1. Around the world, cancer continues to carry a significant amount of stigma; however, there are opportunities to capitalize upon shifting perceptions and positive change.
2. Awareness of cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and survival are on the rise; however, too many people still report that they feel uninformed when it comes to cancer.
3. Communication is critical to decreasing cancer-related stigma, raising cancer awareness, and disseminating cancer education. People with a personal history of cancer—especially well-known or celebrity survivors—and multiple mass media channels are key resources for dissemination.
4. The school system represents a potential venue for cancer education, and increasing cancer awareness among children may be an investment with high returns.
5. When facing cancer, people around the world want information and emotional support for themselves and their families.
6. Tobacco use and poor nutrition are widely acknowledged as cancer risks. Programs and policies that help people translate this awareness into action are needed.

In response to these lessons and the additional insights gained from the research, LIVESTRONG offers the following calls to action:
1. Where opportunities exist to raise awareness of existing tools to combat cancer, public education and resource campaigns are needed that directly address the cancer-related stigma noted across the three sources of data presented in this report and the
associated lessons learned; and
2. The global cancer community should capitalize upon positive shifts in attitudes about and awareness of cancer and leverage these shifts to develop, test, and disseminate effective media campaigns and behavioral interventions to decrease the incidence of and morbidity and mortality associated with cancer.

LIVESTRONG plans to use the results of this research to strengthen patient advocacy in international settings and to build a global grassroots movement. These activities will help people around the world to have accurate perceptions of cancer; to prevent stigma from inhibiting people in their cancer control efforts; to help people affected by cancer receive the support, services, and information they need; and to support ample access to services that facilitate healthy living—all of which will help in decreasing the global cancer burden.

Read "Cancer Stigma and Silence Around the World: A LIVESTRONG Report."

Read "Stigma & Silence: A LIVESTRONG Brief"