Touchy-feely team building in the Czech Republic breaks down taboos to save lives

A Czech organization is teaching people how to examine their #boobsandballs to detect cancer.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 04.02.2021 10:49 (updated on 04.02.2021)

Kateřina Vacková was diagnosed with malignant ovarian cancer at the age of 22. "I knew something was not okay with my body. I listened to my symptoms and it saved my life." Vacková is now a doctor. She said she was lucky, but thousands of people die of cancer simply because they don't know the symptoms.

Battling and surviving cancer from a relatively young age led Vacková to create Loono, an organization that unapologetically encourages people, especially youth who tend to feel invincible to illness, to touch their #boobsandballs.

Loono.cz founder Kateřina Vacková (photo Oldrich Hrib)
Loono.cz founder Kateřina Vacková (photo Oldřich Hřib).

Founded in 2014 the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who comprise Loono visit schools and workplaces around Prague and the Czech Republic to teach people how to detect a whole host of illnesses from cancer to lifestyle diseases.

Vacková believes that self-exams are now more important than ever; in a recent interview, she told Forbes that she fears the pandemic will stop people from getting preventative checkups. Loono has responded to the situation by taking its work online.

"We did not slow down we moved all our activities online, and at the same time, we created a series of verified information materials about COIVD, which are used by hundreds of schools, hospitals, and companies," Vacková told Forbes.

Loono uses rubber breasts and testicles to teach people to detect cancer / photo Martin Faltejsek
Loono uses rubber breasts and testicles to teach people to detect cancer (photo Martin Faltejsek).

Currently, the organization is live-streaming talks (most of them in Czech) as well as offering teambuilding workshops (in English) to companies. "Our webinars are English-friendly and can be attended from the comfort of your own home or office by up to 100 participants," Loono Business Development Manager Alexandra Šišková told us.

The pandemic aside, another social obstacle to cancer prevention in the Czech Republic is the conservative mentality that prevails when it comes to literally getting a grip on your own private parts.

"Through the workshops, I think people realize the importance of self-examination in the end, they are thankful for the opportunity to try it. Doing it in a safe place or familiar surroundings helps says," Šišková said, adding that the Czech mentality is slowly shifting.

Loono.cz workshop / photo by  Dagmar Husarova
Loono.cz workshop (photo by Dagmar Husarova).

Last year almost 100,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in the Czech Republic. According to the Czech Society of Oncology, Czech men are most frequently affected by prostate cancer while the most frequent diagnoses in Czech women are breast cancer, underscoring the need for an open dialogue about self-exams.

The Loono campaign has helped Czech men as young as 17 find and detect symptoms and get treatment. Svobodová predicts that dozens of people have been able to prevent serious illness due to their activities.

Loono also works with doctor's offices to push prevention. Their beautifully illustrated pamphlets cover a range of topics from sexual health to cardiovascular issues and are available in English and online PDF versions. Their English-friendly website also features a wealth of information that talks people through what to expect on a gynecologist's visit in the Czech Republic and when to schedule which procedures (e.g. at what age to get a mammogram).

While Loono teambuilding and workshop participants are no longer able to learn about detection on rubber breasts and testicles in person, the organization will continue to encourage people to get hands-on for health, even from a distance.

"We plan to expand our activities. We are developing a community application, special education in schools, new campaigns, and expansion to Slovakia," said Šišková.

For now, you can sign up for an e-mail reminder to touch your #boobsandballs or plan a virtual teambuilding at Loono.cz. You can also support Loono's future activities at Donio.cz.