The Problem With Pinktober: Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month Working?



Woman hold pink ribbon for breast cancer awarenessAs most people probably know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or Pinktober. Expect to see dozens of pink ribbons in support of breast cancer on every product, screen, clothing item, or surface you can imagine. When any woman living in the United States has a one-in-eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer, surely raising awareness is a good thing, right? Unfortunately, a lot of Breast Cancer Awareness Month isn’t nearly as helpful or supportive as you’d be led to believe.

Pink Ribbons and Promotional Material

Many breast cancer survivors argue that the excessive amount of pink ribbons and marketing material exposes a sensitive time in the life of many women, a time that most would not like to have romanticized in the way that much of Pinktober does. Many survivors feel that much of the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign does not appropriately address the trauma that breast cancer survivors go through, and that the “gentler” image for public consumption can be deeply uncomfortable to see for an entire month. The practice of “pink-washing” has gotten old, and many survivors are tired of it.

Missing the Point

Additionally, while making some survivors relive past traumas, Breast Cancer Awareness Month doesn’t necessarily do what it was initially created to do. While the Susan G. Komen Foundation formerly used a portion of all pink-ribbon product profits to provide breast cancer screenings for women who could not otherwise afford it, the organization no longer partners with the same providers. This means that fewer dollars overall are going towards breast cancer prevention and research, largely defeating the purpose.

Despite October having been Breast Cancer Awareness Month for years now, there has been little change in the rate at which women are diagnosed with breast cancer. More than 40,000 women and men die from the disease annually, and that rate has hardly been impacted by Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Perhaps it is time to stop raising awareness with pink ribbons on every commercial product, and start promoting affordable treatment and care for this deadly disease.

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