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Four reasons breast some cancer survivors are not fans of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

Until I became a breast cancer survivor, I never knew that some survivors cringe during October at the sight of pink tumblers, pink lipstick sets, pink shoelaces, pink tutus ... the list goes on. Granted, it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it is nice to have people think about the disease that threatened our lives. However, now that I am about a year and a half past my diagnosis, I understand why survivors are not always thrilled with how society treats the month.

Here are some of their reasons for being less than ecstatic about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Companies profit off of a cute, pink world they create

Pink is used to sell products, creating this cute world that is actually anything but pretty. I completely understand why survivors feel this way, and for two reasons.

  1. There is a proliferation of pink products, and it can feel at times like corporations are profiting off of a disease. Of course, some of them do contribute all profits on one day to breast cancer, and that is awesome. But one cannot help but wonder how sales of pink items contributes, in general, to businesses' bottom line and how much they contribute to charities that support those diagnosed with breast cancer in return.

  2. Breast cancer is a horrible disease that I would want anyone to go through. It is not a nice, cute, pink world. Fighting breast cancer means months of anxiety, fear, depression; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; chemo-induced hair loss, hot flashes, and infertility; the loss of fingernails, radiation burns — the list goes on, depending upon the person and how their body reacts to a specific type of treatment. This is something you are lucky to get out of alive.

Charities may not always be the best stewards of donated money

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an impetus for people to give to organizations that may utilize your money poorly. I definitely understand this. You do not want to be taken advantage of by organizations that are poor stewards of the money you and others have donated. You can do the following research to ensure that you are donating to a worthwhile cause.

  1. Go to the charity's website to which you are considering making a donation. Look to see if it lists its mission, the names of those on its board of directors and its latest financial reports. If they are not there, the organization is telling you that it is not very transparent, Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the charity watchdog BBB Wise Giving Alliance tells Consumer Reports.

  2. You can do your own research by going to, which offers information on charities. The site provides the IRS 990 form for charities, and you can parse through them to learn their revenue and how they spend their money.

Regardless, in November 2018 Consumer Reports listed the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Cancer Research Institute as two of its highest-ranked cancer charities. It lists the United Breast Cancer Foundation as a low-ranking one.

Others sexualize breast cancer, drawing attention to their initiatives

This sounds so creepy. How could someone sexualize a disease? It's like sexualizing pain, poverty, or anything that threatens one's well-being. The concern is about slogans like "Feel Your Boobies" or "Save the Ta-tas." The slogans are attention-grabbing, but diminish the reality of breast cancer. It's almost as if individuals who use the slogans believe this is the only way they can grab people's attention.

Past news reports also describe things such as a "Save 2nd Base" fundraiser at Tao restaurant in Las Vegas. The fundraiser is said to have depicted a curvy model in a string bikini, adding, "everyone in pink bathing suits receives open bar." The fundraiser drew the ire of breast cancer survivors, and rightly so.

Breast cancer awareness and support should not be seasonal

I agree that these are all reasons to think twice about the intent behind others' celebrations of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I also believe that it should not take a flood of pink and a push by companies to sell pink products to make one think about breast cancer prevention. That should be something that we think about every day. Taking care of yourself, your mother, your sister and your aunt happens 365 days per year — not just in October.

That said, I do believe it is good to find support from other breast cancer survivors, and if some of that happens with breast cancer walks, then so be it. I hate that they occur in October, because as I said above, breast cancer does not just happen during this month. But, of course, holding walks in October builds upon the momentum that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and can possibly draw more of a crowd. Regardless, since breast cancer does not just happen in October, I believe it is important for survivors to also look for support throughout the year, such as in breast cancer support groups and at cancer wellness centers.

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