Los­ing sight of the real is­sues

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Cancer does not dis­crim­i­nate. How­ever, we do. We have a pink-washed month ded­i­cated to breast cancer “aware­ness.” Breast cancer, like all cancer, is a hor­ri­ble dis­ease that has claimed the lives of many. Breast cancer is the most com­mon cancer, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cancer In­sti­tute, but it’s the only type of cancer that has a hy­per-com­mer­cial­ized and sex­u­al­ized “aware­ness” cam­paign.

The other most com­mon can­cers, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cancer In­sti­tute, are lung and bronchial cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rec­tum cancer, me­lanoma, blad­der cancer, non-Hodgkin lym­phoma, kid­ney and re­nal pelvis cancer, en­dome­trial cancer, leukemia, pan­cre­atic cancer, thy­roid cancer and liver cancer. Those can­cers aren’t re­ceiv­ing the same at­ten­tion breast cancer is.

The good news is that cancer deaths across the board are de­clin­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Cancer So­ci­ety. Of course, good news doesn’t mean the work is over. For ex­am­ple, be­tween 2006 and 2015, the colon cancer death rate among adults younger than 55 in­creased by 1 per­cent per year. Where’s the aware­ness for that?

Com­mer­cial­iz­ing and sex­u­al­iz­ing breast cancer aware­ness isn’t stop­ping those other can­cers. Selling pink items so a small por­tion of pro­ceeds go to re­search can have some im­pact, but what breast cancer pa­tients, doc­tors and re­searchers need isn’t an­other “save the tatas” bumper sticker. They need a cure, fund­ing to find the cure, and early de­tec­tion of the dis­ease. While the pink-wash­ing move­ment can some­times con­tain these things, the com­mer­cial­iza­tion and sex­u­al­iza­tion of the breast cancer cam­paign loses sight of the real is­sues.

Breast cancer isn’t sexy. An “I love boo­bies” bumper sticker is mak­ing light of a hor­ri­ble strug­gle. Breast cancer aware­ness and preven­tion shouldn’t be about sav­ing breasts. It’s about the hu­man be­ings af­fected by the dis­ease. The hu­man be­ings with breast cancer, or any other kind of cancer, need sup­port and a cure. They don’t need cliches of “ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son,” or for you to wear a rib­bon.

Mean­while, with so much fo­cus go­ing into the sex­u­al­iza­tion and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of breast cancer aware­ness, other can­cers are wreak­ing havoc on thou­sands of other lives. But, we don’t see NFL play­ers sport­ing spe­cial blue rib­bon gear in March for colon cancer aware­ness. No orange rib­bon adorns the front page of the news­pa­per in Septem­ber for Leukemia Aware­ness Month. Why the dis­par­ity? Is it be­cause colons and bone mar­row aren’t sexy enough to war­rant aware­ness?

It’s time to switch our fo­cus away from shal­low, tem­po­rary cam­paigns fo­cus­ing on breast cancer. It’s time to fo­cus on the peo­ple be­hind the af­fected body parts by pur­su­ing preven­tion, early de­tec­tion and a cure for all can­cers, whether or not there’s a sexy slo­gan to save thy­roids or blad­ders. Sarah Fallin, Lusby

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