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I want to Get Cancer campaign sees positive results despite criticism

I want to Get Cancer campaign sees positive results despite criticism

A campaign by the Irish Cancer Society that has received criticism for its tagline of ‘I want to Get Cancer’ has reported a rise in demand for information and support services since its launch.

The Get Cancer campaign states that 1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime by 2020, and aims to get people talking about cancer and to highlight the support available from the Irish Cancer Society as well as the steps people can take to reduce their chances of developing cancer in the future: so better understanding, or ‘getting’, the illness. However, the campaign has received numerous complaints by people who feel the tagline is offensive.

At the time of launch, Gráinne O’Rourke, head of communications at the charity, said:

“I want to Get Cancer is designed to be provocative, it has to be to save lives. For too long we have spoken about cancer in hushed tones and with a sense of fear and avoidance. Some people even think that cancer is inevitable. We want to change that. There are things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer through lifestyle choices, and through research, early diagnosis, screening and better treatments, if you do get cancer, there is hope.”

Despite the criticism, according to the charity since posting the 40-second campaign ad on its Facebook page, it has been viewed more than 600,000 times.

In addition, its Cancer Nurseline saw a 100% increase in enquiries from members of the public on Wednesday, 4th January (its campaign launch day) compared to the daily average. The top enquiries were in relation to screening for cancer, lifestyle factors to reduce cancer risk, and cancer prevention. There was also an increase in enquiries from cancer patients looking for more information about their cancer diagnosis, information on side effects of treatment and those looking for psychological support during and following treatment.

Key pages on the charity’s website also experienced an increase in traffic, including a 280% increase in visits to the Reduce Your Risk page, a 127% increase in visits to the Cancer Statistics page, and a 52% increase in visits to its Information and Support page. Pages providing information on specific types of cancer also saw increases, with pages for skin cancer and prostate cancer experiencing rises in visits of 92% and 49% respectively.

O’Rourke said:

“We know our campaign has been provocative. But thanks to it, conversations about cancer are taking place in homes across the country. People are picking up the phone and going online because they want to Get Cancer by getting informed.

We’re particularly pleased that our Cancer Nurseline nurses are speaking to more and more people as a result of this campaign.”

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Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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  • Ben

    What an awful tag line “I want to get cancer” is going straight into the subconscious mind as a suggestion. Really bad neurolinguistic programming here. I know they think that being shocking is getting people’s attention but it’s gonna create more cases of people “getting cancer” through the wording. Should change it immediately!

  • Derek Glass

    This is an excellent campaign and I applaud the Irish Cancer Society for running it. It truly cuts through the social media clutter and gets attention, action and response. Well done, excellent job. I hope more charities will launch programs like this in the future.

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