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Putting people at the heart of our work

Positive but realistic

Positive. Realistic. Honest. These are the words to keep in mind when you’re writing about cancer.

If it’s necessary to mention death, don’t shy away from it. Acknowledge the fear, pain and confusion that people can feel when diagnosed with cancer – but never use language that would be likely to add to that fear. Always try to explain what Macmillan and other organisations offer to help improve the situation.

Put people first

Our work is primarily about people, not a disease.

When we’re writing about Macmillan we need to demonstrate how we always put people affected by cancer at the very heart of our work. We listen to what people want and need, and do what we can to meet those needs.

We almost always talk about ‘people living with cancer’ rather than ‘patients’ (unless we’re talking about a hospital situation, for example). Avoid describing people with cancer as having things ‘done to them’ – passive recipients of care and support. Instead demonstrate how people with cancer make choices, and work with others involved in their care.

Never use language that suggests people are ‘victims’ or phrases like ‘battling cancer’.

And never pigeon-hole people – don’t define groups of people by one characteristic such as disability, age, race, colour, religion or sexual orientation.

Appropriate                                                      Inappropriate

People with cancer                                             cancer victims/sufferers

Getting on with life despite cancer                     'heroism' i.e. battling, fighting, struggling

People who are deaf or                                      the deaf
hard of hearing

Real people, real stories

Real stories and quotes from real people are the most effective way to show what we do and why we do it.

We include stories of people with cancer, their families, Macmillan health and social care professionals, supporters and staff in our communications. And, wherever we can, we use their own words to tell their stories.

Writing about cancer

Cancer may be described either as an ‘illness’ or a ‘disease’.

Don’t assume people will understand medical terms – unless you’re writing for a medical audience. Use common terms, eg ‘skin cancer’ rather than ‘melanoma’. For definitions of medical terms, please see the glossary at www.macmillan.org.uk/glossary|

For more information and guidance, see the Macmillan style guide|.