Losing sight of the real issues
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