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Rich cancer. Poor cancer.

Posted: 2/12/2016

Have you ever made a donation to a cancer-related charity and wondered if your money is going to the right place?  "Is there another type of cancer I should be giving money to?" you ask yourself.  "Where would my donation make the most difference?"

These are questions I have pondered many times. For example, I've long suspected that oesophageal cancer (for which I was treated eight years ago) doesn't get anywhere near the funding that breast cancer does. For a while there everything seemed to be getting the pink treatment, even the stumps at the cricket! Maybe that's okay. Certainly the incidence of breast cancer in the population is much higher, but then the outcomes for oesophageal cancer are undoubtedly much more dire.

How do you measure one cancer against another? Do you have a few dollars burning a hole in your pocket? If you decide to make a donation, how will you choose? Maybe it won't be a planned decision. Perhaps you will succumb to the next telemarketer or door-knocker and it's just blind luck as to who will be next.

I suspect many people make that decision based on personal experience. Either they, a family member or someone they know has a particular type of cancer so that's where the donation goes. There is some merit in this approach although it is still an emotional decision, not a logical one.

I fear that most people's decisions are actually heavily influenced by the PROFILE of the disease. Because they hear a lot about a particular disease, their perception is that it is more prevalent than it actually is or in greater need of money.

In a world where competition is fierce for the charity dollar, it's generally (and sadly) the causes with the best marketing and PR team that get the most funding. High profile events (like the death of Jane McGrath) or ideas that go viral (like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) can be a big catalyst for an increase in awareness and funding and a creative promotional team can convince us all that theirs is the go-to charity and the most worthy cause for our donation.

But, with your dollar still in your pocket, how do you look past the hype and the spin and make a logical and informed decision? How do you tell which cancer needs it the most? 

Here's an interesting document from Cancer Australia (see the graphic accompanying this article). It compares the funding for specific tumour types to the burden of the disease. Of course, it's not a definitive solution but it does offer some insight into which cancers have the most impact and get the least funding. 

It might just help you make an informed decision next time you have some coin lying around.

You can download the full report here.

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