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  • 02 Feb 2022
  • 5 min read
  • by Cori Schwabe

The C-word: Cancer

World Cancer Day is of major importance to us here at Leith, so Account Director Cori looks back at some of our key cancer campaigns for WCD.

Today is World Cancer Day, a day created to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. At Leith, we’ve been lucky to work on cancer awareness campaigns across a range of clients over the years.

This week on our social channels, we looked back at some of the campaigns that have made a direct difference to the audience.

Scottish Government:

As the Scottish Government’s lead creative agency on the Detect Cancer Early public health programme, we’ve spent the last decade talking to people about cancer and learning what patient empowerment means in the real world, particularly for those living in areas of deprivation with low health literacy.

We discovered that to increase empowerment you have to meet people on their own terms. Sometimes with approaches that are counterintuitive – making more than a few health professionals choke on their morning tea.

  • For breast cancer, we focused our campaign on highlighting the other symptoms of breast cancer besides lumps, and gave people the language to recognize and talk about them (“Skin like orange peel”, for instance).

  • For bowel cancer, we went on the road to show men how to deal with their poo using margarine and ice cream tubs.

  • For cervical cancer, we respected and acknowledged the negative feelings towards smear tests and broke the informal language taboo by using the f-word: fanny.

The best route to patient empowerment isn’t always the most obvious one. By making the effort to meet people on their own terms, we found a weirder and more wonderful path instead.


Looking outside of Scotland, we helped the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association highlight the importance of treating adolescents with cancer with personalised treatments as part of the Innovate for Life campaign series. Adolescents have real special needs that need to be met differently from a typical child or adult treatment, and we wanted to highlight how innovation continues life in Ireland.

We met Karen O’Neill, a patient who was successfully treated by Professor Owen Smith, a Consultant Paediatric Haematologist, while she was a teenager. She’s now a medic who’s on the other side treating children who are on the same journey she knows all too well about.


For the past two years, we’ve become all too familiar with the C-word: COVID. But, what about the other C-word: Cancer? The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in hurdles to accessing cancer care. Delays in cancer diagnosis, treatment and follow-up have led to more patients receiving their diagnoses at a more advanced stage of their disease, cutting lives short and decreasing quality of life.

In April 2020, the number of admitted cancer patients fell by 20-30% in Europe, and in England hospital admissions for chemotherapy appointments have fallen by 60%.

But this doesn’t mean cancer has gone away. A huge effort must now be undertaken to prevent lives being lost to cancer, and it will require a huge collaboration between the bio-pharmaceutical industry, the oncology community, and the general public.

We developed a video with EFPIA to encourage this collaboration and remind patients that cancer care is still a priority.


Finally, we’re excited to share our latest work with Worldwide Cancer Research to help raise awareness about cancer prevention, detection, and treatment on World Cancer Day. Developing innovative treatments for cancer takes all of us. It takes the researchers to find the solutions, the industry to develop the solutions, and the medics to bring those solutions to patients.

But, it also takes you.

Yes, you can help support finding cancer cures and treatments by becoming a Curestarter with Worldwide Cancer Research. Curestarters help fund ground-breaking research that leads to new cancer cures and treatments.

Best of all? You can become a Curestarter anywhere. In a queue, on the bus, or even after you’ve finished reading this blog post.

We’ve developed a social campaign with Worldwide Cancer Research to highlight how easy and important it is to become a Curestarter. There’s even a fun Instagram filter that you can use to show where you helped start cancer cures.

Cori Schwabe

Cori Schwabe

New Business Director

Cori Schwabe is an Account Director at Leith focusing on healthcare clients. Starting her career in New York City, she passionately helped build a digital presence for brands like L'Oreal, Mustela and Citibank over the past seven years. Wanting a life change, she's left her roots in America to put down new ones in Scotland.