Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Trivialize The Disease?
On the left is a photo from the SavageXFenty breast cancer awareness month shoot. On the right is a photo posted to Instagram by a cancer survivor. "THIS is cancer. Behold my 'front bottom' this was 'gifted' to me kindly by ovarian cancer, and the wonderful range of treatments I enjoyed," says this cancer survivor who doesn't want people to think cancer is cute, sexy, or easy.
As we enter the middle of breast cancer awareness month, SurvivorNet wanted to look at some different opinions on the month to better understand the debate around its impact, and the incredible amount of “pink” awareness raised each year for breast cancer.
This October 1st, people began pinkifying their possessions, getting pink manicures in honor of breast cancer, attending awareness-raising benefits for the illness, and raising money for the cause. And as a way to keep people engaged with the cause, people and companies try to be as creative as they can, and often as cute as they can, in order to attract attention.
But at the same time a lot of people feel that these efforts diminish the experience of having breast cancer, turning it into something cute, light, and simple, without really making people see how hard the disease is and how it affects survivors.
An Instagram account called “busbros,” for example, posted a photo in honor of breast cancer awareness month of a bright pink bus, with a very cutesy caption “Once Again October is Here and its Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Women are 1-8 Chances to Get Breast Cancer and Men Can Get it Too! Save the Ta Ta’s by Getting Involved, Get Educated and Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month!!” The caption uses one of the most commonly used sayings that has become popular among people raising awareness, “save the Ta-Tas.”
In another post, @Iamstufft uploaded a recipe for a banana strawberry smoothie, and said that it was her contribution to the #hellocookpinkchallenge, where people can upload photos of pink foods and attach recipes for making them during breast cancer awareness month.
For some, these are valiant attempts to further the cause of breast cancer, pass on awareness, and generate interest for the cause.
But there are also those who criticize the month, saying that it trivializes the experience of survivors and reduces that experience to something cute, pink, and stomach-able for those who don’t know how hard the illness really is.
One breast cancer survivor, @andrenaburns, who finds breast cancer awareness month a detriment to the cause recently uploaded a an ironic photo of a bunch of pink balloons with nipples painted on them, so that together they look like a bunch of balloon breasts, “I really struggle with Breast Cancer Awareness Month…it feels like my entire world (my socials anyway) are awash with pink…pink ribbons, t-shirts and other useless ephemera along with frothy messages telling us that if we give our girls a squeeze every month…well…simply put, it will all be ok! I did, and it wasn’t!”
I get it that we need to keep educating everyone…I really do…but when you start to understand where all those pink $,€ & £ are being spent it’s heart breaking. . It’s estimated that 95% of ALL money raised for breast cancer goes on awareness programs & treatment research for primary breast cancer! . And no one dies from primary breast cancer…did you know that? . I’ll just let that sink in a bit…yep that’s right…people only die from secondary breast cancer – secondary breast cancer is when the cancer spreads outside of the breast & nodes into the bones, liver, lung or brain. . So that means ONLY 5% of all that money raised goes towards research for a cure for those of us that have secondaries – and it’s those secondaries that will take our lives.
For her, it seems the primary problem with breast cancer awareness month is that it makes the process of screening for breast cancer seem simple (as many campaigns emphasize the ease self-breast-examinations) and that it doesn’t recognize the true pain and difficulty that came after her diagnosis.
Note: NO MONEY IS ACTUALLY SPENT ON CANCER PREVENTION RESEARCH!
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