What medical marijuana can learn from breast cancer and AIDS

We didn’t use to do this stuff. I cover a lot of infectious diseases — I’m writing about HPV now — and we never would have covered stuff like that before. It was considered marginal for a long time. I think it’s fuelled by the consumer movement. A lot of the credit goes to the people with AIDS, and then breast cancer got onto it. And to its credit the medical profession — which used to be a chummy boy’s club — realized that the best way to answer that demand is to do it through the press.

Andre Picard
Globe and Mail health writer

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Three principles for movement building 

Canada’s growing medical marijuana movement now includes everyone from cancer patients and arthritis suffers, to those with HIV/AIDS, back pain, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, seizure disorders and diabetes, along with all the healthcare professionals, researchers and growers who support them.

While at first glance it might look like a dissimilar group, the current picture is reminiscent of the powerful health movements of a generation ago. First, there are a growing number of people willing to speak out about their lived experience of illness and pain. Like the AIDS activists of the 1980s and 1990s, their identities are often shaped by these experiences and they come to activism through a direct, felt experience of illness.

But while a collective identity alone may be enough to form a support group or a self-help group, it’s not enough to jump-start a movement.
A movement needs to serve a broader social purpose that views inequalities and the uneven distribution of resources as responsible for the causes. In short, a collective experience of illness and pain begins the process of transforming a personal trouble into a social problem.


2010 Cancer Day of Action
Secondly, like women with breast cancer who fought against the surgeons dragging their feet for decades before lumpectomies replaced outdated mastectomies, people who identify with the medical marijuana movement are also challenging existing medical/scientific knowledge. When little was known about AIDS, activists had to engage the scientific community in order to spur medicine and government to act quickly enough, and with adequate knowledge. Even health movements that focus on already understood and treatable diseases are dependent upon science. For example, asthma activists who demand better transportation planning for inner cities and who seek better quality affordable housing, do so knowing that the scientific evidence linking outdoor and indoor air quality to asthma attacks supports them.
Third, successful movements involve activists collaborating with scientists and health professionals in pursuing treatment, prevention, research and expanded funding. Such challenges also characterize the environmental movement, anti-nuclear movements, and the climate change movements.
Like the health activists before them, today’s medical marijuana movement leaders have identified problems with a broad spectrum of illnesses resulting in pain and disabilities, and defined some solutions, including better knowledge about, access to and research for medical marijuana.
But will they be able to transform their illness experiences from a personal trouble to a social problem?

Stalled momentum

What’s blocking momentum for the medical marijuana movement is both its strengths and its weaknesses. It’s suffering from the polarized opinions of the medical community, a diffuse and poorly defined patient base, and government regulatory bureaucracy in start-up phase, highly politicized environment and intense global media interest. All these powerful forces can be leveraged for action by applying the frames used elsewhere in social change.

Galvanizing and framing the medical marijuana movement in Canada

The breast cancer movement was built on the powerful pictures of women’s post-surgical bodies and compelling stories. As demonstrated in every Run for the Cure and Pink-ribbon laced campaign, charities and organizations are keenly aware of the emotional cues triggered by stories. Proud survivor or sad victim narratives drive action much more effectively than rational reasons. Grassroots organizations and their Fortune 500 brand sponsors like Nike and CIBC invest in strong story telling to inspire action and belief. They have a clear call to action – donate, participate, or write – and make it easy for people to participate thru social networking/sharing across 3 major networks – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

Applying these lessons to the medical marijuana movement could reframe the diversity of stories as a galvanizing Tipping Point.

Because what medical marijuana patients, researchers, doctors, nurses, and the industry have in common is more powerful than what separates them. The common goals of the medical marijuana movement, healthcare professionals and government regulators, as well as those advocating for a national pain strategy is relief of pain. The unifying power is a passionate commitment to relieve unnecessary suffering, improve and apply knowledge, and finally, wherever appropriate to reduce use of opiate-based painkillers. These goals are clearly articulated in the National Pain Strategy – a strategy that’s been circling the drain for several years, in need of a compelling advocacy effort. The orphaned National Pain strategy could well be the North Star for the fledgling movement.

The War on Pain

As Globe and Mail policy reporter, Andre Picard wrote in March, 2012, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/chronic-pain-patients-collateral-damage-of-drug-abuse-policy/article551590/

We pay far too little attention to the effectiveness of medications used for legitimate purposes like pain control. At the same time, we fret incessantly about drug abuse while doing virtually nothing to prevent or treat addiction. Worse yet, we behave as if these challenges are somehow unrelated when, in fact, they are intricately linked.
The OxyContin story (OxyContin alone kills an estimated 1,000 people a year in Canada) is a prime example of this public-policy hash and underscores the crying need for a plan, a strategy. We need a War on Pain a lot more than we need a War on Drugs.

Picard is right that we need a war on pain. But right now, it’s a war in need of champions. The War on Pain and its potential allies in the medical marijuana movement could find some much needed help in the emerging business sector.

How to make it work

The concept of “Ubuntu” — I am because you are — is fundamental to doing business across the African continent. Many multinational corporations are taking advantage of the concept of doing good in business to build authentic corporate reputations by serving a public good as well as a private interest for profit. These companies are responding to a seismic shift in social awareness as consumers’ values change,
The enormous success Movember – which encourages men to grow mustaches over the course of November and use their facial hair as conversation starters to raise awareness of—and money for—men’s health causes, like research to treat testicular and prostate cancers, has attracted sponsors like Discovery, Wheaties and 7 for All Mankind. Gillette, the charity’s “grooming partner,”. It’s also shown that connecting with the right cause can be a powerful way to create an emotional tie between products and consumers. Over time, people associate a brand with a positive cause and even regularly share social networking comments about or purchase a brand because of its affiliation with the cause they support.

A “Call to Arms” for the National Pain Strategy

In picking up on the Call to Arms for the National Pain Strategy, I’m offering some advice to the medical marijuana industry sector from a steely-eyed veteran of the breast cancer movement and a thousand advocacy campaigns.

1. When you position your brand as a throw back to “Wayne’s World” and the “stoner culture era” you’re flaunting the rules and disrespecting public opinion. You’re signalling you’ve got your eye on the long game when you hope marijuana is legalized and the market explodes with recreational users. You don’t need to worry about the long game. Play with your reputation and your chances of surviving in a competitive market will be crushed. To paraphrase a recent article in the CMAJ, reconsider that choice of “stoner” culture name if you want to be taken seriously.

2. Decide if you’re in the business to serve the best interests of Canadians, or just your shareholders. Then bing your business story and values to life through a core set of programs or initiatives that primarily focus on what your company stands for that brings added value to Canadians beyond just your products/services.

3. Right now the only legitimate market is the medical marijuana market. Help to build demand for excellence in pain control by demonstrating your company’s understanding and support for a comprehensive National Pain Strategy that will include advancing understanding about the risks and benefits of medical marijuana.


We Need a War on Pain Not Pot – Part 1


“These are everyday people seeking relief from their suffering.”

Dr. Marcia Gillman – Palliative Care Specialist, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal

“In Canada, pain is under-recognized and under-treated. And that’s all pain, whether it’s due to trauma, surgery, illness or disease. It includes pain in the community, in our hospitals and in our emergency rooms — it’s a huge problem.”

“We need to teach Canadians that people with pain are not a bunch of wimps, malingerers or drug seekers,” she says. “They’re real people with a real disease that needs to be treated.”

Dr. Mary Lynch – Pain Management Unit, QEll Health Sciences Center, Halifax

“And it’s a problem that has a lot to do with how easy it is to dismiss a condition we can’t see. A nationwide survey by the Canadian Pain Coalition found 53 percent of us don’t believe chronic pain exists. On the other hand, an Angus Reid Poll found 70 percent of us believe that there is intelligent life on other planets (and 54 percent think extraterrestrials have already paid us a visit). So…aliens from outer space? Sure. Chronic pain? No way.”

Sydney Loney, The Scary truth about our pain problem

Chatelaine Magazine

Feb. 4th, 2013


Canadians are hurting

When we are in pain, everything is affected – how we move, how and what we eat, how we relate to our families, how we think and work, how we sleep and how we have sex.

Pain is the most common reason we go to our family doctors and to the ER, costing billions every year in health care expenses and lost productivity. Chronic pain is a common complaint among Canadians, occurring in an estimated 30% of the adult population. Despite its high prevalence, only 32% of Canadian medical schools provide formal training in pain management, including training in the safe and effective use of potent analgesics, most notably opioids. Veterinary schools devote an average of 87 hours to pain management education compared to the mean 16 hours in medical schools.

Its not at all surprising then, to learn that with so much pain and so little medical expertise, Canadians are struggling to find relief any way they can, including thru the maze of medical marijuana options.

According to Health Canada, about half of Canada’s estimated 400,000 marijuana users say they use cannabis for medical purposes – mainly for chronic pain caused by arthritis, back pain, migraines, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Yet we invest 5X more time training vets to treat pain than family docs.

While doctors are doubtless always sympathetic to their patients pain and suffering, their lack of training leaves them skeptical and uncertain about how to advise patients who prefer to use medicinal marijuana for relief. This skepticism is fueling the emergence of a new social movement as medical marijuana patients who are struggling with stigma and access to health services, begin to connect with sympathetic and knowledgeable physicians and researchers in the same way breast cancer and HIV/AIDS activists mobilized.

Safe and consistent access is a real problem


“We’re trying to treat marijuana as much like any other type of medicine as possible. A lot of patients out there who are potential candidates for it are having difficulty accessing this.”

Dr. Danial Schecter – Toronto

According to at least one recent study, the Cannabis Access for Medical Purposes Study (CAMPS), funded by the UBC Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, many seriously ill Canadians are choosing to access medical marijuana of unknown safety though an illegal market rather than participating in a program they deem cumbersome and ineffective, suggesting that safe and consistent access to medical marijuana is a real problem.

Legalized dope-pushing? Really?

Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, outgoing President of the Canadian Medical Association, reinforced the thinking that maintains barriers for patients when he characterized medical marijuana as “legalized dope-pushing,” and said, “We just need one doctor to get killed over this, and then it would make a great movie. I hope it’s not me. I hope it’s not any doctor. Or reporter.”

Franseccutti’s views are considered outdated and raising concern among pain specialists, including Dr. Marcia Gillman, a physician who specializes in palliative care at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital.

“With his statements, he’s managed to stigmatize and marginalize users of medical cannabis, portraying them as stoners just looking to get high,” she said. “Besides perpetuating negative stereotypes, it serves to deter physicians from prescribing to the very patients who could benefit from cannabis.”

Gillman said the CMA and provincial medical colleges have not encouraged doctors to educate themselves about cannabis. “I don’t quite understand this,” she said, since marijuana has “very promising therapeutic value.”

Francescutti acknowledged that one of the reasons for his concern is the perceived lack of research, and that medical marijuana clinical trials may not have been done previously because of a lack of funding. But even if medical marijuana clinical trials had been funded, chances are they wouldn’t be completed. Most clinical trials, even those for advanced cancer, are very difficult for researchers to complete. The biggest barrier to completing clinical trials is that not enough people take part in them – less than 5% of adult patients participate. The main reasons people give for not taking part is medical professionals do not inform eligible patients that the studies were an option for them.

Social Movements Change the Game

As evidenced by changing public opinion, and extensive media[polldaddy poll=8225990] coverage, Canadians and our doctors are part of the social transformation away from decades of stigma and marginalization about cannabis and moving towards an evidence-informed understanding of pain and the risks and benefits of non-opioid pain management.

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This makes the future for better pain management much more hopeful, as social movements are a powerful force for change. Social movements dealing with health are major influences on health care systems, and a major force for change in the larger society. There are numerous examples of powerful social movements driving change in medical thinking, policy, care, etc. …including:

  • Occupational health activists stopped exploitation of workers in unsafe factories during the Industrial Revolution
  • Women’s health advocates altered medical conceptions about women, broadened reproductive rights, changed childbirth practices, expanded funding and changed perceptions about breast cancer;
  • AIDS activists have achieved expanded funding, greater medical recognition of alternative approaches t care, and major shifts in how clinical trials are conducted
  • Mental health activists have brought major shifts in care, including provisions of civil rights, and better treatments
  • Disability rights activists have garnered major advances in public policy on disability rights such as accessibility and job discrimination
  • Toxic waste activists have drawn attention to health hazards of chemicals and other hazards
  • Environmental justice advocates publicize the links between physical health and social health and disuse prevention
  • Physicians and nurses have organized efforts to press for healthcare for underserved and to oppose nuclear arms and international terrorism

Health advocates have been and continue to be very important in social change, presenting powerful collective challenges to medical policy and politics, belief systems, research and practice – including an array of supporters from the media.

Celebrity spokespersons

Katie Couric

After Katie Couric underwent an on-air colonoscopy on The Today Show, screenings across the county jumped. The University of Michigan published a study on Katie Couric’s impact on colon cancer screenings: These findings suggest a celebrity spokesperson can have a substantial impact on public behavior related to that disease.

In the medical marijuana movement, there has been a sea change in media, public and government opinion over the past year, best illustrated by CNN’s Sanjay Gupta. Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, penned a January 2009 TIME magazine article explaining “Why I Would Vote No on Pot.” Since then he has become a reformed skeptic whose own research convinced him of medical marijuana’s value.

Charlotte’s Web – Emergence of Medical Marijuana Movement

One of the reasons Gupta was willing to reexamine his position was because of the efforts of one Colorado-based medical marijuana movement leader – Josh Stanley. Stanley and his brothers helped bring the case of Charlotte Figi to Gupta’s attention. Charlotte Figi, now 8 was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, also known as myoclonic epilepsy of infancy or SMEI. A specific type of medical marijuana with high CBD was able to decrease the child’s seizures from 1200 times a month to just two or three times a month.

GuptaAfter meeting the Figi family in early 2012, and discovering 5-year-old Charlotte Figi’s dramatic success in her battle with epilepsy, the Stanley’s CBD project became known as the Charlotte’s Web™ breeding project.

When Gupta aired his CNN program on medical marijuana in August 2013, along with his opinion piece, “Why I changed my mind on weed”, he earned the attention of millions of viewers when he said:

“I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.”

Gupta is also credited with helping to dramatically shift public opinion in favour of decriminalizing the type of cannabinoid that is credited with helping kids like Charlotte Figi. “Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act 2014” excludes hemp & CBD in the Controlled Substances Act. Dan Morhaim, lead sponsor of the House medical marijuana bill said. “Gupta changed a lot of people’s attitudes about medical marijuana. He now fully supports it.”

Canadian public is voting with its feet

Much of the recent media attention about marajuana for medical purposes has focused on the GreenRush industry drive for profits, debate within the Canadian medical community about more and better research and guidelines, and the questionable marketing practices the new medical marijuana sector is porting over from the pharma sector. Despite all the noise, hype and confusion, the Canadian public is voting with its feet in favor of medical marijuana, and opting to lead thru social change, with public policy and medical practice hopefully not far behind.


Tomorrow – Part 2 – We Need a War on Pain Not Pot

Rethinking Breast Cancer: Taking a Stand with the Big Dawg from Prostate Cancer Canada

Just a few days ago, I sat down with Rocco Rossi – the CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada. It was a friendly “get to know you” over coffee, which I’d had to postpone when my mum was hospitalized for one of the cascading issues that are accompanying her into her 90s. Rocco had offered kind words when I postponed our 1st meeting at the last minute. He’s from a big Italian family where mums carry considerable clout, and I was touched by his gesture.


Sitting down with him in person, I got to meet the Rocco Rossi that once glared down like a hit man from the 2010 campaign posters that covered Toronto when he ran for Mayor. Mr. Rossi is known as a Big Dawg in many high stakes arenas – including federal, provincial and municipal politics – carrying the banner of first the Liberals and then the PCs. I had read his blogs about the lifelong support of his big, hard-working, Italian family, and how with their encouragement and his own perseverance he earned an elite education at Princeton and made a name in the world of the big league beer wars. When his mentor and friend dried suddenly and far too early from a heart attack, he heard the Cri du Coeur and moved his corporate fundraising and strategic talents to Heart and Stroke and the nonprofit sector.  Then Prostate Cancer Canada stepped up their game and picked him as CEO a few years back.

Rossi’s a commanding, articulate advocate and I was more than a bit surprised with the shift in tone from the formerly conservative prostate cancer group. He was briefing me on a complex, gender equity/evidential research/health policy problem that could be solved in a $40 heartbeat – if you accept his case for support.


In a nutshell, Rocco and the newly emerging, more radicalized (finally!) goodfellas at Prostate Cancer Canada are lobbying the provincial government to cover the $40 cost for a PSA in Ontario – just as other provinces are doing. To be clear – PCC isn’t demanding that the province start a new prostate cancer screening program – they (sort of) agree the evidence doesn’t’ yet support a PSA screening program for every guy in the province. They just want the province to pay for a PSA if and when a doctor orders the test. It’s a small ask. And, in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do, even though the scientific evidence for PSA screening is sparse.

Most of the time, I agree with Andre Picard, the G&M’s Health Policy reporter extraordinaire – about what values should drive publicly funded health policy. Canadians and their doctors, as well as health care decision-makers should be able to rely on accurate data to understand cancer screening benefits and risks. Recent studies have highlighted the problem of over-diagnosis as a potential harm of cancer screening.  “Over-diagnosed” cancer cases are actual cancer cases which never would have caused a problem and would never have been detected in a patient’s lifetime without screening. That’s the good news – there are harmless cancers.

But politicians and governments are not ready to pull the plug on provincial mammography screening programs for women aged between 50 and 69 – and they shouldn’t be. It’s hard to separate the harmful cancers from the harmless ones, so we settle for the “shotgun” approach to screening with a flawed tool until something better comes along. There is a role for screening mammography while we invest in the research that will identify the genetic marker(s) that will distinguish cancer cells from normal cells, long before any high-tech image can find lumps.


But the powerful narrative among breast cancer groups – that “Screening saves lives” prostelizes that all mammography screening is good and it pits science against emotion. I don’t want to see men with prostate cancer, like women with breast cancer before them, bravely recounting how they narrowly escaped death because their cancer was detected early.  It’s wishful thinking.

The guys advocating on behalf of Prostate Cancer Canada can kick it up a notch and improve their messages about PSA and the reasons why the province should pay for the test. The province should pay not because the test works so well, or because men deserve equity with women who have access to flawed cancer screening.  PSA tests should be covered because paying for a test when a man and his doctor have had a conversation and decided its useful, and a man does something with that information, represents a tectonic shift in men’s’ health behaviours.  Getting men to talk to their doctors about cancer and take action is a breakthrough that can change the culture for cancer screening. And not just for men’s cancer.

If you look at the cost of population-based cancer screening programs and compare it to what we get back in terms of reducing deaths, it’s clear that for every dollar spent on screening, the return is much better for cervical cancer screening and even better for colorectal cancer screening than it is for breast cancer screening and prostate cancer screening.  Imagine what might happen if men and women started talking about their risks and benefits for all kinds of screening?

Which brings me to why I think the province should pay for (another) questionable cancer test.


The most important lesson from the past 25 years in the breast cancer movement is that women survivors changed everything about the way the disease was talked about, treated, funded, and researched. We didn’t change the outcomes as much as we changed the culture.  Women – both feminist and not – rose up and raised awareness, expectations, money and respect about the disease. Because of that uprising, women diagnosed with breast cancer today have a modestly better chance of surviving – mostly because of better treatments and not more screening. They have a rock solid likelihood of being told the full range of surgical treatment options – and none of them will wake up from a routine biopsy to find their breast gone. Women today will have a much easier – though still not routine – chance of finding another woman with breast cancer to talk to, information about the disease and a support group in their community. Not because doctors, governments or hospitals suddenly decided it was  cheaper, more effective and more humane to bring about these changes – but because women demanded them.  Raising expectations for excellence was a direct result of those actions, even when the science and the standards were imperfect and the outcomes less than stellar.


Changing the culture of cancer, from one of fear, stigma, isolation and biomedical determination, has taken a lifetime. While we are justifiably proud of the progress we’ve made in the breast cancer movement, we can’t ignore the fact that we have done little to transcend the cancer gender barricades, and even less for other cancers and for prevention in general. We have not traditionally partnered with prostate cancer groups to help lift up the men in our lives, and we’ve done next to nothing to help underfunded areas in pancreatic, colon, ovarian, and kidney cancers. The public has not been engaged or given tools to take control of cancer in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities. Canadians have grown weary of our ribbons, runs and poster-girls and guys for the cause, as evidenced in the dramatic declines in donations to our more than 200 cancer charities, big and small.

Its time to redefine the cancer movement to include men with prostate cancer and men and women at risk (all of us over 50) of colon cancer, and those of us who are at high risk for lung cancer because we smoked or worked in occupations that put us at risk, and Millenials who expect healthy, balanced work/home lives, or any of the 33 million reasons why every Canadian should be putting a Big Dawg in the fight and standing up to cancer.

What’s good and what’s smart about asking the province to pay for a PSA test, when its ordered by a doctor, is that when there’s no out of pocket cost, there’s a much better chance that the guy who is looking for every excuse to do nothing, will have one less excuse to do nothing. In other words, I agree with the “make it hard to do nothing” approach. I think if we make it easy for men, it can be a tipping point for changing the culture of cancer in Canada from one of fear, frustration and confusion to one of strength, knowledge and control.

After years of grumbling in the dust of the breast cancer movement, Prostate Cancer Canada landed a windfall when the Movember phenomena blew across Canadian campuses leaving behind donations of more than $22M in 2010 alone. They’ve got deep pockets, a Big Dawg, and an ask to government that should make it hard to say no.

It’s long past time to bring the Big Dawgs into the fight to take control of cancer.

“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” — Vaclav Havel

By Pat Kelly

Check out the PSA Tests for Ontario campaign at:



Getting Past Persuasion – Understanding Cancer Screening

Myth 02: There are no signs or symptoms of cancer

Truth: For many cancers, there are screening tests, warning signs and symptoms, and the benefits of early detection are indisputable.

Another cancer myth gets busted at World Cancer Day 2014

Although every province and territory offers evidence-based screening programs for breast, cervical and colon cancers, too many Canadians don’t have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about screening.

According to a recent Canadian survey 81% of Canadians are aware that cancer screening tests exist and they recognize the benefits of screening. However, 60% don’t understand that screening is a “health behaviour” that is offered free of charge thru provincial government cancer agencies to everyone, including healthy people, based on age and other risk factors.  People in the GTA have some of the lowest participation rates in Canada in our provincial screening programs.

The challenge is finding the right way to communicate about screening in a way that supports informed decision-making. We need to overcome the clutter, confusion and mixed messages so often promoted to the public.

In order to get past persuasion to informed decision making, we want to make it easy for doctors and patients to see the key data about screening tests’ benefits and harms.  We are creating innovative programs and campaigns targeted at new audiences to build understanding and informed decision-making about cancer.

On February 4, 2014 the Campaign to Control Cancer, along with partners from ReThink Breast Cancer, the Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI), the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada and Let’s Talk Science will be delivering a curriculum about cancer control and risk reduction to students from grades 6-8. Together, we will educate and empower young people from the Greater Toronto Area and provide them with the advocacy skills they need to support healthy behaviours in their families, schools and communities.

A new generation of advocates, researchers, physicians and community support workers is becoming inspired to take on the challenges of cancer control. C2CC is mobilizing students across Ontario – come hear what they have to say on World Cancer Day.

Date:             Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Time:              5:00 – 8:00 PM

Location:        MaRS Centre Auditorium, 101 College Street, Toronto

Cost:              Free

Register:        http://bit.ly/1cU5uDC

Why We Need to Talk About Cancer


Why Did Angelina Jolie, Terry Fox, Lance Armstrong, Nancy Reagan and Siddhartha Mukherjee Need to Talk About Cancer?

Myth 01: We don’t need to talk about cancer

Truth: While cancer can be a difficult topic to address, particularly in some cultures and settings, dealing with the disease openly can improve outcomes at an individual, community and policy level.

Another cancer myth gets busted at World Cancer Day 2014

Talking about cancer has long been considered taboo in many cultures – and silence might have been warranted in ancient and medieval times.  Until advances in anaesthesia and antibiotics, most surgical operations were performed in dank chambers or barbershops.   No wonder people fled from doctors and sought the comfort and silence of practitioners who offered goat dung, laying on of hands or blessing of water.  When alcohol and opium were the only relief for intractable pain, it may have seemed more humane to whisper about cancer.  But today, cancer isn’t treated with a soldering iron heated on coals or burning with sulphuric acid paste.
People from all walks of life are talking because talking about cancer can change outcomes:
  • by making patients feel less fearful and alone;
  • by providing support to families and friends;
  • by sharing research findings and advances across systems and borders;
  • by providing cancer professionals with opportunities to attend digital and real-time international conferences, events, educational opportunities to ensure awareness of and application of effective new treatments;
  • by raising questions about the direction and impact of research and public policy;
  • by raising new funds for research and treatment;
  • by raising the profile of the value of clinical trials;
  • By engaging people everywhere thru storytelling and collective action.

Negative public perception of cancer can stifle informed public discussion and perpetuate a cycle of fear and misinformation that hinders raising awareness about cancer prevention and the importance of early detection. Even within highly engaged communities, the level of knowledge of cancer and the willingness to talk about it with friends and family can be low. Our Engaging Emerging Leaders in Cancer Control (E2C2) changed the game by mobilizing a network of engaged student leaders to take innovative-province wide action for a healthy campus, healthy community development and cancer control. 5 campaigns at 5 universities connected healthy choices today, policy change and student engagement for long term health and wellness. 

To hear from E2C2 student leaders join us on February 4 for World Cancer Day:

Date:           Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Time:           5:00 – 8:00 PM

Location:     MaRS Centre Auditorium 101 College Street, Toronto

Cost:           Free

Register Here: