Usually when October comes around, we are inundated with pink merchandise. This year I have seen much less than in years past, which makes me happy. It isn't that I don't think breast cancer is an important issue, I do, it is that buying a bunch of pink stuff doesn't help anyone.
A good deal of pink merchandise merely states that it will "raise awareness" of breast cancer. What that generally means is "we don't actually use proceeds for anything cancer related, but if you use it people will see it and become aware." The thing is, we already know breast cancer is there. As cancers go, it is one of the most known and most talked about. There are plenty of other cancers out there that don't get any attention and have much smaller survival rates. Instead of wearing your pink shirt to say "Hey! Breast cancer is a thing and I don't like it!", why not make up some shirts that tell people about possible causes and encourage screenings?
Even if the sign next to that pink merchandise says that a portion of the proceeds go to cancer research, it is no guarantee that any of your money will actually go toward cancer research. If you have fallen prey to the pink scheme, fear not. There is no shame in doing something with good intentions even if you have been misled. The point of this post is to share some things you can do (or not do) to actually help with the breast (and other) cancer cause in some way.
Why are we still talking about defunding Planned Parenthood?
If you are sporting your pink breast cancer awareness hat while calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, I recommend that you take a closer look at what Planned Parenthood does. This post is not advocating pro- or anti-choice, my intention is instead to let you know what you are asking the government to take away from people. Only about 3% of Planned Parenthood funds go toward abortion services. The other 97% goes largely toward disease treatment, detection, and prevention. This means that if you are crying out for our government to take away their funding, you are begging for fewer mammograms, Pap smears, and biopsies for the early detection of breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer, so that those individuals who would have benefitted from these services may not find out that they have cancer until it is too late. Other things that Planned Parenthood does include detection and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy tests, and prenatal care.
Did you seriously just light up a cigarette with a pink ribbon lighter?
We have known that smoking causes cancer for more than 50 years. If you are a smoker, there should be no reason that you are unaware of the effects of cigarettes. Smoking can lead to ANY kind of cancer, not just lung cancer, and it can cause cancer in anyone smokers come into contact with, not just smokers themselves. I'm not going to sugar coat it or beat around the bush, if you are still smoking in public, there is a decent chance that you have aided in causing deadly diseases in other people. Ways that smokers can aid in cancer prevention is to never smoke in public or around other people. Or you can switch to e-cigs. Even buying a pink e-cigarette can help you to prevent cancer far more than that pink lighter. E-cigs are far cheaper in the long run and much less harmful to others, so what are you waiting for?
Save the women, not the boobies
The whole "Save the boobies" campaign needs to be gotten rid of. It only serves to dehumanize and objectify women. A woman is more than a pair of breasts, and the "Save the boobies" campaign only serves to symbolically reduce her to that.
Don't buy that pink anti-perspirant
Most anti-perspirants contain aluminum. Aluminum in anti-perspirant has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer. It is interesting that companies will use the color pink and the breast cancer awareness campaigns to market products that can increase the users likelihood of getting the disease it is claiming to raise awareness of. I personally believe that we need to stop worrying quite so much about things like sweating, which is a perfectly natural thing that everyone does. Unfortunately, it is unrealistic to expect most others to adopt this viewpoint. So, what can you do to help prevent breast cancer and still smell fresh? Try a more natural, aluminum-free deodorant, or make your own. There are many essential oils out there that help to get rid of odors, cleanse the skin, and prevent infection and illness. Try lavender, pachouli, tea tree, lemon, or frankincense (which is known for helping to lower the risk of breast cancer!). Use the oils sparingly on clothing or your skin if they are safe for topical use, or create a spray with the EOs in a base of water or witch hazel. If you aren't into diy, check out some of the brands in your local store and see if you can find one that is free of aluminum and artificial fragrances.
A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching a class about diseases related to the reproductive systems, and during the discussion about breast cancer, I was made aware that probably about half of the class had no idea how to perform a breast self exam. I led everyone through the process, but as adults, they should have been taught this sooner. It is not hard to do a self exam, it doesn't cost any money, and it can be a good early prevention tool. In my opinion, we should be teaching our children how to do breast self exams as part of our sex education in schools. We should post charts with diagrams and encourage people to get into the habit of checking in with their breasts once a month.
Breast cancer is not glamorous. Pink ribbons and everything else that goes along with breast cancer awareness month make it seem like it's not so bad. We see pictures of women who look fairly healthy standing arm in arm with one another and smiling. Occasionally you will see a woman who has no hair or is wearing a scarf to cover her bald head, but she is almost always smiling and looks like she's well on her way to recovery. This is not the reality of the disease.
At this point, we are all aware of breast cancer, but being fed these images doesn't help to prevent it, or even show the reality of what it is and what it does. We don't see the pictures of the women suffering with severe depression because of the weight of what they are dealing with. We don't see posters with patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, or women who have undergone mastectomies. We don't see the women who are completely devastated because that won't sell merchandise.
Let's stop trying to glamorize breast cancer and instead focus on eradicating toxins in our environment which put us at higher risk of developing it. Let's educate our girls (and boys because they can get it too) about how to perform self exams. Let's encourage people to have discussions with their doctors and push to make sure that EVERY person has access to proper and affordable screenings and biopsies. Let's put our priorities in order and focus on what is really important rather than just thinking we have done our part by buying a pretty pink purse.
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.