Breast Cancer, Awareness and Trickery


Here in the US, Pinktober is in full swing. The flight attendants are wearing pink dresses, shirts and ties. Every store has a pink section with goods promoting awareness for breast cancer, and even the whitehouse went pink.

There’s something about all this that renders me uneasy, and it’s taken me a while to figure out why. It’s not the promotion of awareness of breast cancer, and it’s not the cryptic “don’t tell any men what this means” facebook status games, although they bother me for a whole other reason not least of which is that men can get breast cancer too, but it’s deeper than that.

I recently read this piece which summed up a lot of what I thought about breast cancer awareness campaigns, and pink products eager to jump on a (profitable) bandwagon. And it is all of that, and more.

When the Viking showed me this series of images, I knew that’s what it was. Pinktober glamorises breast cancer. Pink is bright and happy and while I understand the choice of colour, it also doesn’t really reflect what breast cancer is like for those who have suffered it. These images do.

Take a moment. Have a look. Let them sink in.

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Do you support Pinktober? What do you think of it?

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  • Clansi

    That is a devastating sequence of photos. And I think your uneasiness is justified, but on the other hand I think the…glamour (for lack of a better term) has served well in removing the stigma and shame of the diagnoses.

  • Monique Fischle

    When I first saw these images over the weekend, I bawled my eyes out. It was just so sad and heartbreaking and real. I understand why people support Pinktober and there should be awareness surrounding breast cancer (and other cancers as well) but too often people see the pink, know it’s about breast cancer and that’s it. Seeing these images shows that it is very real and about more than just the pink.

  • Lila Wolff

    I have concerns about the vast amount of money poured into “awareness” when it could be far better used in research. I think at this point you’d have to be very sheltered not to be aware.

  • notgraig

    powerful images.

  • John James

    In my own family, my mother, my sister, my auntie, and my sister-in-law’s mother, have all had breast cancer. I’m very aware of the dangers on breast cancer. I check my breasts regularly, because I know that even though I’m a man, I still have an increased chance of getting breast cancer.

    I agree that we need to, maybe, rethink how much money is spent on awareness campaigns – I think organisations like the McGrath Foundation get it right, because not only do they raise awareness of breast cancer, their focus is more about raising funds for things that actually help people with breast cancer – in the case of the McGrath Foundation that means funding nurses to support people with breast cancer.

    Re the images in the post – they are very powerful – and authentic – however I actually think they are doing women a disservice by perpetuating the idea that breast cancer is a death sentence. It is not. Relative survival rates after diagnosis of breast cancer in women have increased in recent years. Between the periods 1982–1987 and 2006–2010, five-year relative survival increased from 72 per cent to 89.4 per cent in Australian women. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Cancer Australia 2012. Breast cancer in Australia: an overview. Cancer series no. 71. Cat no. CAN 67. Canberra: AIHW.)

    So as powerful as those images are – they portray the experience of only a minority of women. The majority of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia will have successful breast cancer treatments.

    So, maybe we need both – we need successful cancer awareness campaigns (of all types) that not only generate funds for awareness, but also raise funds for research, treatment, and support services. But we also need campaigns that show the realities of both successful and unsuccessful treatments. If shown in context – and with a balanced view that most women will survive breast cancer – these images still have their place.

  • Jess the Mess

    I’ve experienced the same thing – my boyfriend’s mum posts on Facebook one of those ‘where you put your handbag’ or ‘what country you’re going on holiday to’ etc. secret nonsense posts whenever they come her way. One day she was saying how good she thinks they are at ‘raising awareness’ – I felt like saying ‘Great!! So how much did you donate to breast cancer research then??’
    To me it feels a bit like a species of slacktivism, not to be too harsh to those who engage. It feels good to do it, you feel like you’re doing something.. but really you’re not. So the marketers of all the pink stuff are really doing their customers a disservice, stealing their goodwill. I definitely agree with the linked author: if you want to donate, take charge, find a great cause you believe in and make sure your money is actually going where it should be.