Creating Cancer Awareness with Social Media

Non-profit organizations and research foundations have acknowledged the power social media has in creating vast awareness of their causes. Even if their cause literally makes everyone flinch and clench their teeth at first. I believe it is safe to say that no one likes to be confronted with the subject of cancer. Cancer is coherent to, perhaps the most fundamental, negative emotions that can be aroused in a human being- fear, anger, anxiety, sadness and grief.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined cancer as 
„(…) a generic term for a large group of diseases characterized by the growth of abnormal cells beyond their usual boundaries that can then invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other organs.“

Being the second leading cause of death worldwide, there is no country or society that is left untouched by this topic. It is a disease that concerns us all. Almost everyone I know has been confronted with it in one way or another. The prescribed treatments vary dependent on the type of cancer and time of discovery. According to WHO evidence, 30 to 50% of all cancer deaths could be avoided by early detection and modifying key factors such as reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption or maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 

Medical institutions across the globe have formed corporations and initiated campaigns aiming at motivating men and women to regularly turn up for their health check-ups.
But how do you motivate a broader audience than your classified high-risk patients? One of many options is social media.

There are several success stories of such foundations that have raised extensive awareness by going viral. There are two projects in particular that I would like to share with you:


Spot-the-Dot Foundation

I found Marije on LinkedIn by chance whilst I was doing research for another project of mine. Impressed by her accomplishments so far, I asked her if she would allow me to feature her personal story on my blog.

For more than a decade Marije has been active in the field of marketing, PR, social media, journalism and copywriting within the creative industries in several countries. She is, what I would classify, as a „Power Woman“ – driven, positive and full of energy.

Source: Spot The Dot Instagram

When diagnosed with Melanoma, she noticed that there were many misconceptions of skin cancer and therefore decided to create the foundation Spot the Dot . The foundation is dedicated to creating skin cancer awareness, in particular melanoma, especially amongst young people. Skin cancer is ranked in the top three of most common cancer types amongst young people, most of which are not aware of that. Research shows that people in the younger age categories check their skin least of all, while early detection can be crucial. This is why Marije encourages people to start a conversation with their loved ones about the importance of prevention and detection of skin cancer. Spot the Dot is active in three languages: English, Dutch and German.

Campaign: Rebel Against Skin Cancer

Social media is a big part of the projects Spot the Dot have going on.  Its primary objective is to raise awareness and reach youngsters and people from all over the world.

„I am telling my story online, but what I like the most is to use unconventional ways to talk about skin cancer. This is why we work together with artists from all over the world, from street artists and photographers, to fashion designers, musicians, athletes, skateboarders etc.“

One of her most recent projects during the Melanoma Awareness Month 2017 in Austria can be seen here: – Rebel Against Skin Cancer Vienna Edition  

Marije has used her standing and knowledge of her profession and her connections to the artistic scene to create and establish her foundation. Together with graffiti artists and other personas from the creative industries she reaches out to her target audience.

The Tutu Project Tutu-Project-logo

I became aware of The Tutu Project of the Carey Foundation on Facebook as I was initially researching foundations focusing on raising breast cancer awareness within Austria. Although The Tutu Project is based in the United States, it captured my attention and interest by its pictures – beautiful images of landscapes, cities and popular historic sites. The pictures themselves are all unique in their setting – but they have one common denominator: in the center of them all is a man in a pink tutu. Bob Carey.

The Tutu Project 2
Source: The Tutu Project

What initially started out as an idea to make his wife laugh and smile throughout the hardships of her chemotherapy, is now an ongoing 12 year project.. The images of Bob in a pink tutu are used to raise breast cancer awareness. As the campaign went viral, Bob and Linda use a percentage of the sale of the images and other giveaways, to support families suffering from breast cancer covering insurance costs.

Bob Carey dressed in a pink tutu in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany - 09 Dec 2013
Source: The Tutu Project

Simplicity is the key

Being a photographer, Bob uses the means of what he does best – taking pictures. The main motive and common denominator of his pictures are his attempts of impersonating a ballerina wearing a pink tutu – anywhere and everywhere. The pink nuance of the tutu is identical to that of the Pink Ribbon, evidently associating the focus of the images to the central cause of the foundation – raising breast cancer awareness.

Both foundations are exemplary in successfully raising cancer awareness. In defining their target audience and using visual means of expressing their core and fundamental message, they have created astonishing, if not to say, remarkable follower counts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.  Both foundations are true to themselves, authentic and have definitely reached their primary aim of raising cancer awareness.   

If you would like to support these foundations or obtain further information, have a look at:
Spot The Dot
The Carey Foundation

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