Due to long-standing stigmas, people still find it harder to speak out about colorectal, prostate and lung cancer, and that is preventing Canadians from getting screened or seeking treatment. Well, it’s time to change all that; it’s time to start talking about cancer.

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is stigmatized because most of us have been socialized to be embarrassed when it comes to speaking about certain parts of our body and, as a result, we shut down when it comes to discussing things like our colon or rectum.

However, getting celebrated public figures onboard to speak freely and openly is making a huge impact in the way that people relate to colorectal cancer. “Having celebrities like Darryl Sittler tell you that it’s important to get involved or get tested really makes people sit up and take notice,” says Amy Elmaleh, Co-founder and Executive Director of Colon Cancer Canada. “Having people who have been touched by colon cancer talk about it is making a difference.”

“Start a conversation today, with a colleague, a friend or a family member and play your part in breaking down the stigma.”

Colorectal cancer is over 90 percent preventable with screening, yet it’s still the second leading cause of cancer death in Canada. It’s simple: if more people start talking about colorectal cancer, more will get screened. And, with early detection, very often comes a full recovery.

Prostate cancer

Raising awareness of prostate cancer and making it a subject that is no longer a taboo is imperative if more men are to get informed about the true dangers of the disease. Across the country, awareness campaigns are working hard to get men talking. “Our focus is on raising social awareness for early detection because we know that survival rates are high if we can get to men early,” says Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada. “Some companies are doing ‘lunches and learn’ with their workforce, which is a great way to give men more information about testing.”

Rossi also points out the importance of a network of 75 support groups situated across the country, where men who have received treatment provide peer-to-peer support to the recently diagnosed and their spouses. As well as providing emotional support and reassurance, these support groups play an integral role in educating men about their treatment options.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer is a fatal cancer and may be one of the most stigmatized. There is a social tendency to blame the sufferer of the disease, a common belief that they deserve to be afflicted by lung cancer. In fact, 15 percent of people who have lung cancer have never smoked, and another 35% are ex-smokers.

With the help of people like Anne Marie Cerato – a lung cancer survivor and Lung Cancer Canada Board Member – organizations like Lung Cancer Canada are fighting to eradicate the stigma and dispel the misconceptions of the disease. “Lung cancer should not be just about whether you smoked or not,” Cerato says. “It’s about facing the reality of losing someone you love.”

These three cancers are stigmatized for different reasons, but that stigma causes the same problems: a lack of screening, awareness and prevention. So, start a conversation today, with a colleague, a friend or a family member and play your part in breaking down stigma. Together we can take the fight to cancer.