Does The Cancer World NEED The ‘Fear Factor’ For Income?

During my visit to Palestine, the one very shocking thing that I quickly became aware of, was that everyone I met thought their cancer was a death sentence. This is something that has followed down the generations and will take a long time to change. But the facts are quite different from that. Naturally there are many issues there that make things difficult, but so many more of us are living with cancer, than dying of it. Obviously the earlier the disease is detected the better chance of survival we have. 

I have come from the generation where cancer (The Big C) as it was known was certainly not discussed openly in my family. My Dad died of bowel cancer and my Mum had breast cancer and survived for more than 25 years. But neither discussed their issues openly, with my Mum not even telling her Mum at all. Thankfully things have changed and with the revolution that social media has created, most of us want to share every part of our life, including our cancer.

Marketing and propaganda plays such a big part in our lives, and why should the cancer sector be any different? Watching my TV or working on my computer, I am bombarded with adverts featuring particularly either children, or old people, asking me to leave money in my will or run a race to help cure cancer, mmm as if!! The fancy slogans dreamed up by advertising agencies being paid a fortune by the very charities asking for more! 

But my question is, are they using that fear factor to try and appeal to our generous side and send them money? I am not a conspiracy theory man at all, but I have to say that there is a lot of money to be made from the negative side of cancer. Big pharma’s never ending chase for a magic cure, backed up by giant charities with their wonderfully expensive well branded projects that are created to ‘help’ us.  

The reality is that the facts and figures can be put out with a much more ‘positive spin’ on them. Talking about how many more of us are surviving for longer and how that is improving. But I don’t see that at all. Many of us are lazy and believe what we read or see on our phones etc, which has created a powerful marketing feel around large cancer organisations. 

In my own work I see and hear some very distressing cases, but I am in it to make a difference, which we can and are doing with very little money. My focus is on the positive things we can do for people affected by cancer. I am in no way clinical/medical but we can do things that professionals can’t. We know what it feels like to be affected by cancer and work accordingly. 

The chaos caused by politicians is also a great reason for the continuing negativity, With seemingly the most simple things creating life threatening issues for many. These are all issues that are totally out of my control. But one thing I have learned is that good news does not sell, and I rarely see any about cancer. Of course there are plenty of positive things to talk about, but do they raise money? 

Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion. It can make us psychologically weak even before we have faced the reality of the challenge. Our head starts playing games with us which makes it very difficult to deal with situations logically. But for some of us, we react positively and our defences come up early to help. There are no rules of course, and fear can overtake us very quickly. I have always been a positive person, which helped me deal with the challenges I faced in recent years. But if you are not that way inclined, no amount of talk about a positive attitude will change that! 

Of course we know cancer is becoming more common, therefore we need to look at innovative ways of helping people. We cannot forget the impact that it is having on our society or treat it lightly. But I believe that we need to focus much more on the positive aspects that are happening now, due to our increased knowledge and the availability of technology. Cancer feeds on fear, if not physically but emotionally, so is it not time that we look at another way of advertising? 

There is still so much to be done of course and we will always need money to be donated, but do we always have to be guilt tripped into donating? For those that are not aware, cancer is not one disease, so there will never be a single cure, no matter what the adverts say! Is there really a danger that if we don’t frighten people they will stop donating, not just for cancer but for many other causes too? 


This video is not intended as a plug (far from it!) but just a typical example of something that was produced for impact without caring what people with cancer think. I’m sure it raised lot’s of money so that’s what counts eh? 
As always these are my personal views and experiences. Please feel free to agree/disagree or just share your own below.


  1. Chris

    As usual you are spot on. But I also think that the powers-that-be have brainwashed us into accepting our poor outcomes – this week was blasted by an executive from a certain mega-cancer charity, telling me that we had some of best cancer care in the world – of course she had no idea who or what was the World Health Organisation, and had never seen their research. Like you, I am fed up with latest TV ads, wish ‘they’ would stop talking about the ‘fight’ – the only fight is the one we have to put up to get proper treatment (new GP couldn’t see why I needed to waste money on a DEXA scan!)

  2. Chris,
    I do partly agree.I don’t really like some of the aggressive stuff that eg Race For Life,have done previously.’Cancer we’re coming to get you’-or whatever it was.
    I’m doing race for Life this year(having had cancer last year).The Race for Life publicity points out that more people are surviving cancer now etc-which is true.So maybe CRUK are now adopting a more positive stance.And I suppose it is largely due to CRUK fundraising that outcomes are generally better so If I,& many others,now have a better chance of surviving cancer now,then I just feel very thankful for it.

    • Hi Diane,

      Yes there was indeed a lot of publicity like that. I still see a lot, but I follow closely what all the big guys do. I am delighted you are in a positive place and are up to doing Race For Life. My granddaughter did it a couple of years ago in memory of her other Nan. There obviously is a demand for this sort of thing, but personally I believe it needs to be much more transparent.

      Giving time/money is a very personal thing and I would not criticise what people choose to do. I am on the inside of much cancer work, and have my own charity, so I have a different view.

      I wish you well with your run and beyond. Thanks so much for sharing your own views, Chris

  3. You raise a very valid issue, Chris. There’s enough fear that goes with the cancer experience as it is, and all too few effective resources to help those struggling. It’s a shame that the media and especially the medical establishment often add layers to that fear rather than helping people overcome it. Kudos yet again for speaking up for those struggling, and warm regards.

    • Hi Shani,

      It’s so lovely to hear from you. That subject has been on my mind for some time, especially recently as we are bombarded with TV adverts that make me feel depressed, even as a cancer patient.

      There seems to be little consideration for those of us living with the disease. On my recent trip to Palestine I was shocked at how little the people knew of current survival rates. They were all convinced they would die.

      As we both know cancer feeds on fear and I believe we should look at different ways of advertising to try and remove some of that.

      I do hope things continue to go well for you, and delighted that you could join in the discussion, Chris

  4. Brilliant write up Chris and so very true.

    All large charities should advertise what they achieve with the donations but also be open with their administrative costs and costs not directly supporting the charity’s objectives.

    • Thanks so much Ken! I believe there needs to be a total rethink in the charity sector. Also of course transparency. A sad state of affairs when in our day a charity was something you trusted without question.

    • I have been aware of this for some time Vicky, and like you I thought I must be wrong. But on my recent trip everyone was in fear of the disease which was doing so much damage! When I spoke about my case, the rooms became visibly noisy and smiles appeared. The fear was doing more damage than the cancer, and I believe that is happening here too, simply because of the fundraising media. It can be done more positively.

  5. I agree with you 100% that most of these charities use the fear factor so that people donate money and (not meaning to sound harsh) but that’s why I don’t bother with those charities and support the ones like teens unite, teenage cancer trust , clic Sargent and bone cancer research trust.

    I can’t trust charities that don’t show the good and positive stories and only show the negative because it seems to me like a money making scheme + I honestly don’t know where my money is going to! But charities that are for cancer PREVENTION , life after cancer (especially for a young person like myself ) who show inspiring stories and the bone cancer trust on the daily tell me what my money has impacted.

    Now that’s what I want to see . But I agree with you though. More money should go into cancer prevention and inspiring stories (and we need to be told where our money is going to) but that’s just me x

  6. Hi Crystal,

    Thanks so much for sharing your own views, that is what we are here for. I personally feel the same as you, and with the giant charities there is just not any transparency. Of course we need to be looking for a cure for cancer, but it is not just one disease! Above this we need to be helping people who are living with the disease and not discriminating against them. Our services need to be a lot more joined up.

    Great to see you getting involved with the online community Crystal, you have a great deal of experience to share. XX

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