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breast cancer is a deadly disease, not a party with cheesy cupcakes

Posted Aug 07 2012 10:58pm

Another article about a group that is putting the “fun in fundraising” for breast cancer reminds me yet again of the credibility problems we are having with breast cancer. We hear so many comments about breast cancer being the “good cancer” or “not the serious cancer” that many of us are questioning whether touting the success of mammograms and treatment is doing more harm than good. When questioned about why it is wrong to make light of breasts for a breast cancer campaign, in a nutshell, it is because we have carried the fun too far. We have become irresponsible in discussing the topic of breast cancer and become inured to it by virtue of the very medium we use to raise money.

Breast cancer’s seriousness is really being called into question; too many people have the impression that breast cancer is not deadly. No one questions the deadliness of other cancers, but with breast cancer too many people make assumptions that it is not a “bad cancer.” Many do not even realize that breast cancer still kills at a rate of 40,000 women in the US alone annually . In most campaigns you will not see one message that relays the seriousness of the disease; the campaigns are more about succeeding in raising money than in relaying real information. It’s more about the fundraiser than the reason for the fundraising.

Why is this the perception? It is because we do not have an understanding of breast cancer. We have campaigns that advertise pink merchandise to the point of saturation for products that are not even beneficial for breast cancer (remember the Komen campaign of Buckets for the Cure with KFC®). Even when we do not know where the money is going with purchases of pink merchandise everywhere from hospital gift shops to gas stations, marketing ploys of pinkness work because everyone has been brainwashed into thinking that buying pink benefits breast cancer; few question how much of the purchase profits actually go to a respected and reliable organization. We have concentrated too much on raising money and, purportedly, awareness that many are more caught up in tactics to raise money with silly slogans than teaching the realities of this disease. Isn’t there a better way to sell cupcakes for a breast cancer event than a Tata Sampler of Java Jugs, Honeynut Hooters or Rocker Knockers

What is the objection to slang language for breasts and the lightheartedness surrounding such references? Because we have so many people using slang language for something that should be referred to in clinical terms, we have lessened the impact of breast cancer’s seriousness. All of the slang words that so many people use to describe our breasts only encourage giggles and an atmosphere of flippancy. As I have noted before, let’s face it, no one uses the same level of frivolity when it comes to prostate or colon cancer, even in light of their increased awareness campaigns.

Why do we think it all right to make references to breast cancer cute or fun? Do we not understand that by doing so we are shortchanging the entire campaign for awareness by making it seem that fun is more welcome than the serious language that describes a serious disease. We need to teach others about the reality of this disease rather than some sugar-coated version that encourages the public to treat the subject not with respect but with exaggerated levity. I wrote recently about an art exhibit of a woman who had metastatic breast cancer that was removed from the site of a support center because people thought it was too uncomfortable to view. As I noted then and remind us all now, cancer is not comfortable to look at, to hear about or to have. You will not hear the word pretty or fun in any of the discussions with an oncologist, and I’m pretty sure about this, too, nor will you hear the words boobies, hooters, jugs, knockers or tatas.

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© 2004–2012 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.
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