With October comes the Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Products are decked out in pink and graphics are centered around the sexualization of breasts, supposedly to increase awareness of breast cancer. Marketing awareness for the cancer is often sexualized, lighthearted and synonymous with the color pink.
However, breast cancer is just as serious other cancers and diseases. It is not fun or sexual. In the United States, 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Both my mom and grandma have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I have seen the impact it has had on my family.
Around the time I was in middle school, I saw my peers wearing “Save the Boobies” wristbands. While I knew they were for breast cancer awareness, something felt off about the phrase. Why is the focus on breasts and not the person enduring the cancer?
When I see the media focus on breasts, I get an unsettling feeling in my stomach, especially since this cancer is present in my family. Pink is also a very misleading color to associate with breast cancer because the disease is not only present in women.
There are many companies that support breast cancer awareness by incorporating pink into their package labels, with proceeds going to one of the major breast cancer foundations. While this is great, there should be more messages behind the campaigns besides serving as additional promotion for the company. Labels could include breast cancer facts to show the seriousness of the disease and companies could reference sources for where to learn more.
Seeing how breast cancer has affected my family, I am more cognizant on how serious it is. The patient must make a choice on cancer treatment. There are various surgeries performed. Finding the option that best suits the patient is a tough one. I still remember when my mom told me she was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer. She was very fortunate to have the cancer detected at an early stage. She had a tough time deciding what to do since some treatments involve invasive surgeries. She spoke to many people about the best way to proceed. Ultimately, my mom made the decision that best suited her, getting the cancer removed. Fortunately, she is doing well, but for anyone who gets breast cancer, it’s a life-altering experience. There needs to be a greater focus on ways to support people who are diagnosed with it. Increasing the amount of support groups and resources available to diagnosed patients is one step in the right direction. More information about emotionally supporting people with breast cancer should be available to everyone. Having the capacity to be there for someone is simple but powerful. We can give breast cancer patients the true support they need.
We need more focus on how we can be proactive toward our own health. As college students, we need to know how to perform monthly self-examinations, which will help with early detection of breast cancer. We should all do research on steps we can take. For increased awareness, schools can educate students by hosting workshops and events. By introducing young people to the seriousness of the disease and other healthy practices, we can start helping ourselves as well as those around us.
I hope that going forward there will be a shift in the way breast cancer is presented in the media and recognized for the serious disease that it is. If we can all speak out and change the way breast cancer is discussed, we can make a difference.