Breast Cancer Awareness Posters Cause Confusion, They Were Trying To Compare Disease With Covid-19

Breast cancer is a deadly disease, and scores of people die from it every year.

So the more information the public has about this disease and how to prevent it, the better.

But when that info causes confusion to the public, these good intentions may fall flat.

Local actress Pam Oei shared on Facebook last week that a couple of posters in the lift lobby of her residence may just need a little tweaking to convey their messages properly.


Unlike the posters, Ms Oei’s caption in her post was direct and to the point, very accurately summing up her confusion: “HAH LI KONG SIMI?”


When a supposed “non-essential artist” is better at writing copy that’s straight to the point than a non-profit organisation partnered with the Health Promotion Board, perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board?

Stopping breast cancer by ‘going all around’?

Since the poster is by the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF), you would think it’s about breast cancer.

However, the 1st thing it tells you to do to stop the spread (of what?) is to “mask up”.

So, wearing a mask can stop breast cancer now?

Then, the poster tells you to “go up, down, in, out and all around” on your breasts.

It may be teaching women how to check themselves for lumps — but that’s when they already have breast cancer, that won’t prevent you from getting it in the 1st place.

That’s what Ms Oei must have thought too, when she said,

To stop the spread of breast cancer I have to examine my breasts? But breast cancer doesn’t spread that way what!

So breasts can head out now?

Ms Oei also shared a 2nd poster.


It says “staying home saves lives”, and from that, perhaps a light bulb will finally appear above the head of the person reading the poster: They’re talking about Covid-19.

After all, during the ‘Circuit Breaker’ earlier this year, Singaporeans were encouraged to stay at home to stop the spread of Covid-19.

However, the poster proceeds to perplex again, saying: “Heading out saves breasts.”

Breasts can “head out”? Where should they head to? Ms Oei had the same questions, saying,

Heading out WHERE saves breasts???

The confusion was shared by a netizen who commented that women may wonder whether they should stay home to save their lives from Covid-19, or head out to supposedly save their breasts from cancer.


Posters compare breast cancer with Covid-19

The caption below, in English and Malay, provides a little more context when it urges people to “fight against the other health crisis that is breast cancer”.

By this point, it may be clear that it’s comparing breast cancer to the pandemic that’s been on everyone’s minds since the start of the year.

It also advises women to have regular mammograms and breast self-exams.

To the fair, the other poster had the same message in Mandarin and Tamil. However, those who failed their 2nd-language exams in school may not bother to read them, thus rendering the message confusing.

Netizens are incredulous

Most of the comments on Ms Oei’s post were incredulous, with some struggling to believe they were real and not the work of a troll.


According to Ms Oei, they’re real, in she sees them in her lift lobby everyday.


Another commenter caught on the Covid-19 comparison, but probably thought the poster was trying to do too much and the messaging could be handled better.


One had a message to ad agencies everywhere: Campaign don’t automatically do better when boobs are involved.


BCF apologises for causing confusion

After Ms Oei’s post went viral, the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) posted in the comment section too, apologising for causing confusion or offence.


Like that some netizens concluded, the posters did attempt to leverage on the Covid-19 pandemic that everyone’s talking about, BCF said.

Apparently, juxtaposing Covid-19 and breast care was meant to “intrigue” people to find out more and scan the QR code.

Wait, there was a QR code?

Ah yes, there it is above the poster — we might have been too weirded out by the message on the poster to notice.


Also, while in a fetching shade of pink, perhaps the QR code doesn’t look like one we’re used to.

People not intrigued, says Pam Oei

Ms Oei said as much in her reply to BCF’s comment, saying that people were not intrigued, they were “confused and irritated”.

Thus, they’re not going to scan the QR to find out more.

She also suggested that the poster could have a line to advise people to scan the QR code.


However, she thanked BCF for their response, and said their work is important and life-saving.

She also revealed a tragic personal fact — her mother died of breast cancer at 54, so she’s all too aware of the importance of messaging that’s clear that will alert the public on how to stop this disease.

She added that 2 doctors, including her gynaecologist, didn’t think the messaging on the posters was good enough.

Get free merchandise from BCF

In a Facebook post on 30 Oct, BCF announced the roll out of the campaign, called “Stop The Spread”.


They also said it hopes to reach out to 2 million Singapore residents.

Well, Ms Oei might have just helped them do that.

If you take a photo of the posters and share in the original Facebook post, you may even get some merchandise — for example this shower hanger that reminds you to “shower your breasts with love”


No word on whether Ms Oei will be getting any memorabilia or not.

After all, her post did bring much publicity to the campaign.

Good intentions must be backed by good messaging

Breast cancer isn’t a joking matter indeed, and we applaud the good intentions of BCF to create more awareness when Singaporeans may be focused on another deadly disease.

However, their good intentions must also be backed by good messaging, or all the effort to convey the importance of the issue will be lost.

It’s good that BCF said it’ll take the feedback into consideration for future campaigns, and we hope they keeps up their work.

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Featured image adapted from Facebook and Facebook.