World Cancer Day – debunk those myths!

These” World Days” more often than not, catch me by surprise.  Surely it is only a few weeks ago since it was World Cancer Day?  Apparently not. Today, Februay 4 is indeed World Cancer Day.

The World Cancer Day website tells us:

World Cancer Day 2014 (4 February 2014) will build on the success of last year’s campaign, by again focusing on Target 5 of the World Cancer Declaration: Reduce stigma and dispel myths about cancer, under the tagline “Debunk the myths”.

World Cancer Day is a chance to raise our collective voices in the name of improving general knowledge around cancer and dismissing misconceptions about the disease. From a global level, we are focusing our messaging on the four myths above. In addition to being in-line with our global advocacy goals, these overarching myths leave a lot of flexibility for members, partners and supporters to adapt and expand on for their own needs.

If we are going to focus on myths around cancer I am not sure where I would start.  So I am opting for quick and easy.  And consistent.  Living in this part of the world it is critical to be able to share accurate information. Beliefs and traditions are deeply held and must be respected while attempting to debunk myths surround cancer.

I have therefore chosen to highlight some of the points from an earlier post, which looks at inequity and the challenges of cancer in a developing context. In this post I noted that:

I have a particular perspective on breast cancer, awareness and equity from my place on the planet. I see and hear, and try to understand, the significant different levels of awareness and the very different concerns which people have in my part of the world. I struggle with the fact that I had access to excellent care and treatment and a reasonable level of understanding of breast cancer yet a woman I might sit next to in the course of my life and work here has a very different level of awareness, considerable traditional taboos and for whom access to care and treatment is not easy. The discussions in the wider blogosphere are relevant and critical. But they often do not have relevance from where I am standing……..

……Our cultural reference points bring differing levels of understanding wherever we are. I quickly learned that it was even more complex and subtle here than I had imagined. Many people were hesitant or uncomfortable to talk openly about their cancer, or even to be identified as having been diagnosed. Gentle conversations gradually helped us, outsiders, to understand that there is a significant stigma associated with cancer. Belief grounded in karma means that a cancer diagnosis seems to bring with it a judgement that this is a punishment for a wrongdoing either earlier in this life or a previous one. There also are important issues over privacy and sharing private information

Fans with message in Myanmar

My plea on this World Cancer Day, is that we take a step back and reflect on those inequities, and acknowledge the very different places we all stand.  Those myths vary according to where we are and there are many unspoken, little-known myths which we must first understand.