A recent Washington Post article explored an interesting disease awareness trend: when families lose a loved one to cancer, they often choose not to share the type of cancer he or she battled.
With the recent cancer-related deaths of David Bowie and several other notable celebrities, this disease has seen its fair share of the media spotlight. However, many of these death notices do not include details regarding type of cancer in order to protect the privacy of the deceased.
It seems attitudes regarding this practice vary from person to person. On one hand many people, especially the families of those who have died from cancer, assert that specific cause of death is an extremely personal matter not to be shared publicly out of respect for the deceased.
However, others have found that hearing or reading about the cause of death of a person encourages them to learn more about the disease and how to prevent it - a major potential benefit to including the type of cancer in an obituary.
For example, the Post article cites Betty Ford's decision to share publicly her breast cancer diagnosis in 1974, an action that prompted women all across the country to undergo mammograms. More recently Vice President Joe Biden disclosed his son's fatal battle with brain cancer, spurring a new "moonshot" program to raise millions of dollars for brain cancer research.
Even in a world where cancer is a constant topic in the media and impacts the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, there still appears to be a stigma associated with certain types of cancer. Individuals have said that they omitted cancer type in an obituary because it involved a body part or organ they did not want to talk about publicly.
The article cites one such story involving a woman whose husband died from colon cancer, and she chose not to share the specifics because he had always been self-conscious about his colostomy bag and diagnosis. Here is a perfectly fair example of a desire to protect the dignity of the dead.
However, the story illustrates an underlying attitude about colon cancer that prevents many people from getting screened. Because it's an uncomfortable subject, people don't want to talk about it. But these conversations are essential to spreading awareness, getting people screened and eradicating this disease.
Where do you fall in this debate? Do you think there's a problematic attitude toward the way people approach colon cancer? How can we eliminate this screening barrier?
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