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Founder of pancreatic cancer charity defends controversial 'I wish I had breast cancer' awareness-raising adverts after outcry

The 'envy' campaign, which was commissioned by Pancreatic Cancer Action, is aimed at highlighting the disease's poor survival rates when compared to more common types of cancer

The founder of a pancreatic cancer charity has defended a striking new awareness campaign that shows sufferers of the disease wishing they had other types of cancer, after it was branded 'insensitive' by social media users.

The 'envy' campaign, which was commissioned by Pancreatic Cancer Action, is aimed at highlighting the disease's poor survival rates when compared to more common types of cancer.

Just three per cent of people with pancreatic cancer are alive five years after diagnosis, compared with 85 per cent for breast cancer victims and 97 per cent for men suffering from testicular cancer, the advert says.

The television spot features pancreatic cancer patients saying 'I wish I had breast cancer' or 'I wish I had testicular cancer' while showing the different survival rates associated with the various illnesses.

One advert features 24-year-old pancreatic cancer sufferer Kerry Harvey saying: "I wish I had breast cancer", whilst another shows two real pancreatic cancer sufferers - Andy Luck, 42, and Penny Lown, 51.

However, the advert prompted a raft of social media criticism.

"Horrible insensitive campaign for those with breast cancer and those who have lost loved ones to it", wrote one Twitter user.

Another social media user wrote: "Your I Wish I Had Breast Cancer slogan is offensive, repugnant and hurtful towards all cancer victims and their families."

Another wrote: "I had breast cancer. I speak from the heart when I tell you I wish it upon NO ONE. Not a single person."

The campaign also drew criticism from breast cancer charities.

Chris Askew, CEO of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: "We can’t support any message that suggests that any form of cancer is preferable to any other. Or any inference that breast cancer has been 'solved'."

However, Ali Stunt, the charity's founder, - diagnosed herself with pancreatic cancer in 2007 at the age of 41 – staunchly defended the campaign.

Speaking to The Independent, Ms Stunt said: "All types of cancer are horrific and no one would wish to be affected in any form.

"Anyone who has been affected - our hearts go out to them."

"These adverts feature real patients. Kerry for instance is particularly poorly. And what these patients are wishing for are better odds than those they are facing."

"We're expressing that sentiment. It's a feeling that I had when I was diagnosed and we hear it numerous times in our work. But of course we are not wishing that people get cancer of any kind."

Ms Stunt points out that pancreatic cancer research receives only 1 per cent of overall cancer funding and that 50 per cent of diagnoses are made after an emergency admission; this is compared with a quarter for cancers overall.

Ms Stunt said she understood how the advert had caused offence but asked people to see beyond the headline: "I can understand that if you just look at the headline it could potentially cause offence and upset."

"Read on or watch the video to understand where it's come from. It's come from a pancreatic cancer sufferer who wishes they had a better prognosis."