Today, Youth Cancer Europe (YCE) launched a brand new social awareness campaign, aimed at removing stigmas associated with cancer diagnosis amongst young people. The campaign was announced with the release of a video entitled #removelabels, in which a group of young cancer survivors hold up signs with their careers scratched out and their respective “cancer labels” taking centre stage, before these are removed to defy the perception that cancer defines who they are.

Launching just ahead of World Cancer Day, the objective of the campaign is for cancer to stop being seen as a taboo subject and treated as a limiting factor at both a professional and societal level. Young survivors often report about the pressure that a past diagnosis can put on job hunting, dating and relationships; with many hiding their cancer history for fear of rejection or discrimination.

“Survivors don’t want to identify with the labels that society assigns to them”, says Katie Rizvi, CEO and co-Founder of Youth Cancer Europe. “Like any other young adult, they are people with their own dreams and ambitions and a whole life ahead of them. To hinder that through stigmas, on top of existing limitations within public and private institutions, is to effectively rob them of a brighter future. They don’t want to have to keep their cancer past a secret when they apply for a job or meet someone new for fear of exclusion; they instead want to stop being seen as patients, and be recognised as professionals and for the qualities that make them who they are as individuals.”.

#removelabels is the social awareness counterpart to Youth Cancer Europe’s continued policy drive to end discrimination against young people living with cancer. Young survivors in particular are often more impacted than any other patient group when it comes to issues such as financial discrimination, access to fertility preservation, mental health support, availability of dental and reconstructive surgery or access to cross-border health services: five key issues which YCE addressed in a white paper presented last October at the European Parliament in Brussels, where the video for the new campaign was filmed.

The issue of financial discrimination raised by the organisation also became a hot topic of discussion, with MPs across the continent calling for an end to abuse and lack of transparency by insurance firms and other financial institutions against young survivors.

Šarūnas Narbutas, co-Founder and Chairman of Youth Cancer Europe, said: “Our campaign to #removelabels carries a social awareness message. While we continue to fight at an institutional level for better quality of life for young patients and survivors, we must remember that the word “cancer” still carries a lot of stigma with it, especially around young people. That’s why it’s important to remind society at large that young survivors simply want to resume a normal life after cancer. Their future means to them a lot more than a cancer diagnosis, and that’s just how they want to be seen by everyone else.”