Even an illness can be converted into an activity to bring in the clicks, it seems. And model Poonam Pandey’s “death” stunt certainly hit a new low. By faking her death to cervical cancer, she may have got the online “hits” , but it certainly has been a disservice to cancer awareness.

Anyone who has had to deal with cancer, will understand the toll it takes on the person and caregivers — and would have been revolted by the stunt. As for the others, the unsavoury activity is unlikely to have sent women queueing up to screen against cervical cancer.

But it’s not the first time that cancer-linked communication has been insensitive. Years ago an insurance company had sent media persons a cancer bill with their name on it — to drive home the message of the high costs involved in treating cancer. No one was amused, nor encouraged to take the insurance.

Contrast this with thoughts shared by model-actor Lisa Ray, after she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow). She took people along in her journey in dealing with cancer.

Social media has heartfelt messages from women diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, for instance. Their narrations take you through their fears, anger, pain and fight back. When they tell you to screen for cancer, the message is compelling. Not for TRPs.

Television presenter Julia Bradbury and recently CNN anchor Sara Sidner shared their thoughts on being diagnosed and dealing with cancer. One person who left a lasting impact, was scientist Nadia Chaudhri. She let us into her family, and told us the day she told her six-year-old son, she had cancer. Her entire online family of followers wept that day. She died, at 43 years.

Marketing agencies need to learn a thing or two about health messaging. It needs to be simple, scientific and sensitive.