It’s Pinktober. You know what that means: breast cancer is in the spotlight. We see it on TV, in human-interest pieces on morning news shows, and on the pink gloves of our favorite football players. We see the famous pink ribbon in our favorite stores, on special-edition boxes of cereal, cosmetic palettes (some of which contain cancer-causing chemicals) and Post-it notes.
Unfortunately, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has morphed into more of a marketing tool than a public education or fundraising opportunity. It has turned into a way for companies to endear themselves to consumers and sell products. The pink ribbon appears on just about every product out there, but many contribute little to the fight against breast cancer. Many companies purposely avoid clear explanations of how they will help fight breast cancer, while others claim they are “raising awareness.” It seems that in many cases, Pinktober efforts have turned into an easy business opportunity for marketers and an easy way for us consumers to give ourselves a proverbial pat on the back for doing something good. We wore a breast cancer awareness bracelet. We bought the pink stapler instead of the black one. We raised awareness!
But is any of it doing any good?
After 25 years of raising awareness, breast cancer has become the most high profile type of cancer. We are beyond the point of raising awareness. It’s time to focus on prevention and research. Instead of focusing on awareness, we need to discuss behaviors, like alcohol consumption or exposure to certain chemicals, which increase the risk for developing breast cancer. Hospitals and physicians should use the opportunity to share genetic risk factors or specific screening recommendations. Instead of “raising awareness,” we should focus our efforts on raising money for research or providing free screenings to women in need. Instead of buying products that promise to “inspire hope,” our money could go directly to assisting patients, providing financial aid, transportation to appointments, or fun activities.
Most promotions typically ignore an important group in breast cancer community: those with metastatic breast cancer, who likely will never be cured. It seems that in all of the discussions about “hope,” we have lost track of a group that is desperately in need of help. Let’s focus more of our energy and funding on finding a cure for them.
Breast cancer is a worthy cause; let’s just be smarter about our fundraising efforts.