The depressing industry of breast cancer awareness

Image via usaghumphreys on Flickr
Image via usaghumphreys on Flickr

Don’t drink the pink Kool-Aid

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor

As you probably know, October is breast cancer awareness month. The pink ribbon—and pink in general—is everywhere. Stores sell buttons or ribbons you can buy by donation to raise awareness. Marathons are organized all over to raise money for research, and to give your female relatives a chance to show off their pink feather boas and odd bras.

Let’s be clear: Breast cancer, like any cancer, is a very serious and tragic issue. Pretty much everyone knows someone who has beaten or passed away from this awful disease. Although it mainly affects women, men are also capable of getting it. It is not something to be taken lightly, and it is one of the most common medical causes of death today.

Fighting cancer remains a frustrating and serious medical issue. There are hundreds of kinds of cancers, each with their own treatment efforts and present dangers. Breast cancer is one of the most common and terrifying occurrences. It is incredibly important to raise awareness of the risks and symptoms, especially in preventative measures, such as mammograms.

Giving your money to “cancer research” can feel like the right thing to do, but it can often do less good than you think it does. Many organizations that collect for this sort of thing do not give a significant amount of proceeds to actual scientific funding of cancer treatment, nor does it go to actual victims of cancer. It goes towards funding organizations that are sometimes for-profit instead of charities. This is especially true if it’s a non-cancer related product that’s suddenly pink for October: They’re still using the ribbon to make a profit, even if they donate some of the money to (allegedly) fighting the disease. Ironically, some of these products contain ingredients that actually increase someone’s chance of getting breast cancer. So much for reducing the disease in the future—but hey, it’s something else to collect money for!

A lot of organizations collect for breast cancer during this month. If you’re going to donate, do your research and make sure you feel comfortable with whoever you’re giving your money to. Better yet, donate the money directly to a breast cancer victim, or donate the gift of time.

Fighting cancer seems to have gone from helping people who are sick and helping people not get sick, to a whole industry with a shallow promise of increasing research and awareness. I don’t like to get too conspiracy theorist on big pharma organizations or medical research, in general. I don’t quite believe companies are working to suppress a cure so they can make more profits, but I do believe cancer awareness has left its roots. Ultimately, we should be working for the victims and their medical care, not for the industry and foundations sprung up in their shadows.

Cancer research does a lot of good, and most of the funding at least goes indirectly to helping people—such as providing resources for free mammograms, for example. Ultimately, what causes we support is up to us, but it’s important to know what the causes are, and what the best way to help out really is.