Breast cancer campaigns not praiseworthy

Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is a national threat to women and men that deserves care and consideration, but it may not necessitate as much attention as various awareness foundations have given it compared to other conditions.

Issue awareness has gained popularity in the age of the Internet, but awareness often promotes little change. Breast cancer awareness has become more of a commercial asset than a movement, according to The Guardian, with companies placing pink ribbons on products to appear socially conscious.

However, this lack of true action is not the biggest problem of the breast cancer awareness campaign; it’s disturbing side is its sexualization of women’s health.

sOne of breast cancer awareness’s most famous slogans is “Save the Boobs,” which appeared in a breast cancer awareness advertisement created by Canadian TV Host and MTV host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani. Breast cancer gets some of its attention because it deals with women’s breasts — and sex sells. This sort of marketing subtly implies that the breasts are the part of a woman that are most worth saving — not her brain, nor her heart.

Even more telling is that prostate cancer does not benefit from this intensified focus on a disease that affects sexual or sexualized organs. According to The Daily Caller, breast cancer receives far more funding than prostate cancer; breast cancer research received $872 million in federal funding while prostate cancer research received only $390 million in 2009. Yet, the American Cancer Society expects similar numbers of new cases in 2013 — 234,580 new cases of breast cancer and 238,590 new cases of prostate cancer.

Breast cancer isn’t even the biggest threat to women’s health — heart disease is, followed by lung cancer, according to The Huffington Post. So then why is it that heart disease doesn’t receive the same attention that breast cancer does?

Breast cancer is a potentially lethal disease that certainly deserves attention in funding, but not more so than equally dangerous diseases; and creating a sexualized campaign, although effective, is not admirable.

Editorial Dissent
Michael Setzer, SciTech Editor

Breast cancer campaigns have absolutely no reason to stifle their voices. Furthermore, the assumption that a decrease in pushing breast cancer awareness will lead to an increase in knowledge of other diseases is fallacious.

It seems obvious that the term awareness refers to education of statistics regarding the disease, preventative measures, and testing available to women.

According to CBS News, the overwhelming majority of fatal breast cancers occur in women who have not had a mammogram.

According to health and medicine website Medscape, the survival rate of breast cancer has greatly increased in the past 10 years.

New treatments and early detection — both of which can be at least partially attributed to successful breast cancer campaigns — are main reasons behind increased treatment and survival.
The initiatives taken by organizations such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure are admirable and smart. As other organizations show, it’s very difficult to raise money and promote awareness and education about the disease in question.

Breast cancer awareness advocates have created successful campaigns that have ultimately led to significant results; why should we fault them on this?