Cancer Council WA ads blocked by Facebook for being ‘too offensive’

Mikala Atkinson from Cancer Council WA says Facebook has blocked life-saving health messages from its Find Cancer Early campaign. Picture: David Baylis d482950
Mikala Atkinson from Cancer Council WA says Facebook has blocked life-saving health messages from its Find Cancer Early campaign. Picture: David Baylis d482950

FACEBOOK has blocked life-saving health messages including the words ‘pee’ and ‘poo’ because it fears they’re too offensive for regional West Australians.

Cancer Council WA regional education officer Mikala Atkinson said the council’s Find Cancer Early campaign deliberately used plain language to explain the symptoms of bowel, lung, prostate, breast and skin cancer to over-40s in country WA.

Ms Atkinson said Facebook refused to post the ads because it contained “specific personal attributes of physical/medical/mental condition” including “blood in your poo?”, “Bloody poo?”, “Do you have cancer?” and “Noticed blood in your poo?”.

Ms Atkinson said regional West Australians were 20 to 30 per cent more likely to die within five years of a cancer diagnosis than those living in Perth and these ads sought to address the problem.

“Unfortunately, a poor understanding of cancer symptoms and the fact country people often delay going to the doctor is causing too many avoidable deaths,” she 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 has since compromised to play the ads between 8.30am-3pm when kids won’t be in the car.

Ms Atkinson said the online and radio ads would be complemented by a TV ad featuring country WA doctors.

“If our TV stations and all but one of our radio stations don’t have an issue with it, we can’t understand why Facebook does,” she 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.”

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