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Communicating breast cancer prevention

October is breast cancer prevention month. This topic has long been considered taboo and relegated to the side of discussions. 

Lack of communication hasn’t been the only problem this delicate topic has faced in the past. It’s also the way people have talked about it that has been harmful. This led to a stereotypical response full of cliches.

Social communication campaigns designed to raise awareness of breast cancer prevention have changed throughout the years. In 1991, for example, an ad was aired in which a woman, depicted from the back, is sitting topless on the beach. People are shown walking past her and staring, mostly men. At the end of the ad a male voice off screen says “If you don’t mind showing your chest to the world every summer, why don’t you show it to your doctor every six months”?

The focus of the ad, which should have been reminding people to get periodic check-ups, falls into the background. What transpires is, in reality, the strong male component and hypersexualisation of the female body. The narrator expresses the message in a cold and strict manner, with no empathy, as if there were no difference between sitting topless on the beach and getting checked for breast cancer.

Today’s storytelling: women warriors

Storytelling evolves and within the dominant rhetoric, women warriors are the real main characters. They fight with everything they have against an enemy rooted inside them. 

The image of the woman who fights appealing to her affections, who employs female solidarity and who breaks through the wall of fear and shame by sharing her experience.

What experts have to say is crucial to educate people but it’s not the only strategy employed to inform them on the subject. Communication campaigns used today showcase different stories of women who have had breast cancer, how they overcame it, what they felt, but also how prevention saved their lives.

They become symbols of hope and courage. It’s an effective strategy because it showcases common people making the disease appear more like a reality than a tragedy far away from us.

Sensitising young people about breast cancer prevention

Sensitising new generations people to the theme of prevention is becoming more and more important. In order to effectively communicate a topic to a specific target using strategies they hold close is paramount.

One way of doing so is by using famous people they might recognise, who become spokespeople for this sensitive topic, in order to reach as many people as possible. 

Stylist Stella McCartney, launched in 2021 a campaign entitled “Toilet, Teeth, Tits” (TTT) in collaboration with some actors from the popular Netflix show “Sex Education”, which owes its popularity in part to the fact it sheds a light on topics that are still quite taboo in society. The ad disproves a series of myths about the causes of breast cancer and focuses on self examination as one of the best methods of prevention. 

Educating as many people as possible on the delicate topic of breast cancer prevention is necessary to save lives. It’s crucial, therefore, to create effective communication strategies to underline the importance of timely action. 

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