Cancer Council campaign starring Northam doctors is in a battle over “offensive language”

Facebook has blocked a new health message which includes the words “pee” and “poo” because it fears they are too offensive for regional West Australians.

Cancer Council WA’s Find Cancer Early campaign uses plain language to explain the symptoms of bowel, lung, prostate, breast and skin cancer to over-40s in country WA.

Facebook has refused to post the ads because they contain “specific personal attributes of physical/medical/mental condition” including “blood in your poo?”, “Bloody poo?”, “Do you have cancer?”, “Noticed blood in your poo?”.

Cancer Council WA Research and Education Services Manager Cassandra Clayforth said regional West Australians are 20 to 30-per-cent more likely to die within five years of a cancer diagnosis than those living in Perth.

She said these ads are required to change that.

“Unfortunately, a poor understanding of cancer symptoms and the fact country people often delay going to the doctor is causing too many avoidable deaths,” Ms Clayforth said.

“We know these education messages will save lives, so Facebook’s refusal to let us get them out there is disappointing and somewhat baffling.

“Facebook is one of the only ways we can reach people over 40 in some rural and remote parts of WA, so not being able to use it is a big issue.

“If we change the ads in the way Facebook want us to - by talking indirectly about symptoms or using vague terms like “stool” - they risk being ineffective and confusing people even more.”

It’s not just Facebook that Cancer Council WA has had trouble with; a Mandurah radio station initially refused to play the ads, but have since compromised to play the ads between 8:30am – 3pm when kids won’t be in the car.

Ms Clayforth said the online and radio ads will be complemented by a TV ad featuring country WA doctors, including Dr Colin Smyth and Dr Marie Fox from Northam.

“If every TV station and all but one radio station don’t have an issue with it, we really can’t understand why Facebook does,” Ms Clayforth said.

“The fact is, the earlier cancer is found, the better your treatment outcomes are, so it’s vital you know what to look out for and see your doctor when something’s not right.

“If you’re over 40 and experience any of the following for more than four weeks – new or changed spots on your skin, trouble peeing; runny poo; unexplained weight loss; any unusual pain, lumps or swelling; a persistent cough or breathlessness – get it checked out.

“Even more importantly, if you ever have blood in your pee or poo, or cough up blood, it’s especially essential that you don’t ignore it - see your doctor straight away.”