The Controversy around Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This month we head into pink-ageddon. Everything will be pink – yogurt cups, beers, football gloves, socks, purses and balloons. Interestingly, in the actual breast cancer community there is sharp division about whether the corporate takeover of awareness is a good thing. Many of my survivor friends turn three shades of hot pink when asked their opinion – they hate it. It’s a manipulation of the true message, a way to cash in on loved ones lost, and the money goes crazy places – if it goes anywhere at all.

In years past I saved my yogurt lids and made a choice to buy the pink packaging if it was offered, but I didn’t know the consequences of my choices or the real message of October. This is about awareness – and frankly, I too believe the real message has been lost. October should be about bringing awareness to women about this disease. Awareness to my generation who remains virtually ignorant to the fact that it can impact us. And, it should bring awareness of the remarkable strides that medicine and doctors have made. (Some survivors will dispute that – I tell you, this is a fraught topic).

I think we all agree that there is an issue with corporations profiting off a disease. A movie was just screened here in Austin called Pink Ribbons Inc – a documentary on the disparity between profits and donations and the true message lost. To that end if you are going to make choices this year on donations and purchases, make sure that there is an actual organization designated.

This year, and forward, my money and time will go to two organizations that made a dramatic difference in my attitude, support, and care: one is the Breast Cancer Resource Center here in Austin, TX which is the home of the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls. My young survivor network of over 500 women. They have been my Q&A group, my friends that I talk to about things I don’t even put on the blog, and the organization that provides Austin with individual, amazing support.

Here is their donation page: https://secure.commonground.convio.com/bcrc/october2012/

The other organization which you will hear more about is the Duke Cancer Institute. I am clearly biased (alma mater and all) but they are trying to create disruptive therapies – funding truly cutting edge young research on this disease. You will see much more as I become their first Alumni Ambassador – attending Board meetings and speaking there next year, as well as becoming part of their support community – as founder of the Blue Devils Vs Cancer alumni organization.

Here is their donation page: http://dukecancerfund.org/get-involved/

More than that, I think my new mission is also to educate and empower my generation about this disease. It is curable – especially if caught early. It is detectable using mammograms and thermography and ultrasound. Here’s what else you should know:

About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. However, breast cancer can strike at any age, and is the most common cause of death in women aged 35 to 54. The number of young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer is on the rise, with scientists unsure of the cause.

Most importantly – you need to get to know your breasts. Usually, the first noticeable symptom is a lump that feels different from the rest of your breast tissue. More than 80% of breast cancer cases are discovered by touch, by you or your doctor. You need to get to know your breasts in circular motions, horizontal and vertical. And don’t be afraid to palpate deep—many breast cancers are close to the chest wall.

You also need to feel under your arms—lumps found in lymph nodes in the armpitscan indicate breast cancer. Other symptoms include density changes, one breast becoming larger or lower, a nipple changing position or shape, or swelling around the collarbone. If you have any of this—regardless of your age—get to a doctor and discuss it.

I never was a pink girl really, but now I’m proud to wear pink ribbons, bracelets, T-shirts, and hats. Don’t just think pink this October, do pink. And recognize and respect the true meaning of the month.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Controversy around Breast Cancer Awareness Month

  1. Lauren, I am very proud of the proactive effort you are initiating fr your generation of young women. You are completely correct that few women in their 30s even think they are at risk. Your story will be a sentinel one for their awareness. And, congratulations on your forthcoming service as the first Alumni Ambassador at the Duke Cancer Institute. You are already making a difference for others. Rich

  2. Thank you for sharing. I had no idea there were such divided opinions but I was definitely aware of what you so aptly call “pink-ageddon.”

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