I do not like Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Each year between August and October, the color of Autumn is not the reds, browns and yellows of the changing season, but pink. Massive breast cancer-themed athletic events are held around the country. Free mammograms are conducted. Buddy check programs are promoted on the evening news. In Denver, many buildings are adorned with giant metal pink ribbons, and many companies use this time of year to promote their partnerships with breast cancer organizations by incorporating the ubiquitous pink ribbon into their corporate logo.
My local stores are blanketed with pink products: Hats, t-shirts, wristbands, yogurt containers, laundry soaps, coffee, and cereal, to name a few of the myriad items one can buy, with a small percentage of the sales going to breast cancer organizations…pink is prevalent.
Save the “Ta-Ta’s!” one t-shirt proclaims.
A woman is more than her boobs. Let’s focus on saving the whole woman.
Breast cancer is but one of the cancers killing women across the United States. Lung, colorectal and gynecological cancers affect tens of thousands of American women each year. In the U.S. lung cancer now kills as many women as breast cancer and all gynecological cancers combined.
Yet breast cancer is the “popular” cancer for women, and it gets the majority of the funding and publicity and celebrity involvement, far overshadowing the other cancers. It’s worth mentioning that breast cancer is not exclusively a woman’s disease. Statistics for 2009 projected that about 1,910 cases of breast cancer were expected to occur among men, accounting for about 1% of all breast cancers, with approximately 440 men dying from breast cancer.
For women, 2009 statistics predicted 254,600 cases of breast cancer in women, with 40,170 women dying from the disease.
To be completely transparent, I have 2 female friends engaged in active war with breast cancer, both under 40. My grandmother survived breast cancer, and I have many other friends who are breast cancer survivors. I’m also a cancer warrior through my work as a fundraiser and global volunteer leader with LIVESTRONG. Lung cancer killed my dad. I hate cancer.
The focus and funding currently put forth each year for breast cancer research and awareness would be better spent developing a comprehensive women’s cancer initiative that deals with all cancers targeting women, not just breast cancer. This would require a unification of the various breast cancer organizations and programs into one unified coalition, something that does not exist today. Arguably, the yearly spotlight that shines on breast cancer would dim a bit as resources are directed away from that cancer and much needed attention is shifted toward fighting the “other” women’s cancers, but overall the result would be a positive one.
The various forms of cancer have different effects on the human body, and require different forms of treatment, awareness education and advocacy, and different patient support organizations should continue to exist. Spotlighting one form of cancer over another only serves to weaken the entire war effort against cancer.
The only way cancer—all cancer—will be defeated is through a cohesive public, private and governmental partnership that is focused on cancer in general, not one specific type of cancer.