The original ads, which ran in print this week, showed pancreatic cancer sufferers saying they wished they had other forms of the disease. The campaign highlighted the low survival rates for pancreatic cancer compared with other more common cancers and included straplines such as “I wish I had breast cancer” and “I wish I had cervical cancer”.
The charity also posted a video to YouTube and promoted the campaign, which was created by ad agency Team Darwin, on social media.
However, other cancer charities said that while they understood the intention of the ads, they questioned the strategy of pitting one cancer against another. Breast Cancer Care said that instead cancer charities should be working together to cure all forms of the disease.
Breast Cancer Campaign chief executive Baroness Delyth Morgan, says: “While the intention of the campaign is great, the adverts are hugely upsetting and incredibly insensitive and divisive. It’s an important issue to address; however, by doing so in this way, Pancreatic Cancer Action has belittled the impact of other cancers.”
Cancer sufferers have also criticised the campaign on social media, calling the ads “hurtful” and “horribly insensitive”.
A spokesperson for the Advertising Standards Authority says it has received around 20 complaints about the ads from individuals over the past 48 hours. No decision has yet been made over whether to launch a formal investigation.
Pancreatic Cancer Action has apologised to anyone upset by the campaign but says it needed to raise awareness of the disease.
The charity claims that just 1 per cent of cancer research goes to pancreatic cancer and that 50 per cent of diagnoses are made after an emergency admission as both sufferers and doctors are missing symptoms.
The charity says phase two of the campaign will roll out on Monday (10 February), focusing on the symptoms people should look out for. Featuring the same cancer sufferers, the campaign focuses on how difficult the disease is to detect, with straplines including “They told me it was nothing. I believed them.”
The ads will feature outdoors and in print.
“We thank everyone who has supported this campaign. We are also sorry to those who have been upset by it. “We do not dispute that this is hard-hitting, but better awareness of this disease can save lives and that is our ultimate objective,” says the charity.