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A Commentary on a Recent ACS’s “Making Strides” Video

I want to begin this post by saying I do support the work of the American Cancer Society. I really do. I’ve donated to them for years. I had direct contact with them during my breast cancer treatment. I’m grateful for the wonderful work they do day in and day out.

The intent of this post is not to discredit their work.

I’m merely questioning the messages possibly being given by one particular video.

I believe in questioning.

Keeping all of  this in mind, after recently watching a particular video put out by the American Cancer Society as part of their “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” campaign, I felt uncomfortable. I decided to share my thoughts about why it made me feel this way.

As always, I’m genuinely interested in your opinions, so I hope you’ll read, watch and then share your thoughts if you’re so inclined.

Click here or on the image to view the video.

I don’t know about you, but as I said, after I watched this video I felt uncomfortable. I watched it again and felt the same way.

Why does it make me feel uncomfortable?

First of all, the entire premise of this video, much of which is shot at chest level for effect, focusing on breasts not faces or lives, feels off to me – way off.

In addition, if you take time to read the message beside the video, it says this:

“We’re putting the focus on what ‘Making Strides’ events are all about – breasts.”

Seriously, it’s all about breasts?

And telling viewers of the video in a  half-joking manner, “It’s okay to look at our chests,” not our faces, doesn’t sit well with me either.

I realize this is supposed to be some sort of tongue-in-cheek humor, but I don’t find it amusing.

I also realize many will think I need to lighten up here, but when I see all the absurdities surrounding certain breast cancer awareness campaigns, in fact the blatant sexism that exists, a person’s patience wears thin sometimes.

As I mentioned in the previous post, if you look around in October, sometimes it seems like Breast Awareness Month, not Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Simply put, I expect better from the American Cancer Society.

I also wonder about the “breast cancer can be defeated” statement that is somewhat loosely put out there in this video. Susan, a six-year breast cancer survivor states quite emphatically at the end of the video:

“…I’m a six-year breast cancer survivor and I am living proof that breast cancer can be defeated.”

I’m pleased for Susan and her continued good health. However, after a breast cancer diagnosis, “my cancer was defeated” is a phrase generally not tossed around much.

There is no cure for breast cancer; therefore, you never really know for sure if you’ve defeated it.

Is this merely semantics?

Perhaps, but again, I expect better from the American Cancer Society.

In addition, the implied message that a mammogram is what will enable you to “defeat” cancer is misleading.

I certainly believe women should be getting regular mammograms beginning at whatever age she and her doctor determine is best.

However, mammograms are not the same as prevention. Mammograms are not infallible. A mammogram is an imperfect tool at best.

Even if you are diagnosed at an early stage; even if you have had regular mammograms, your cancer can still metastasize even years later.

Breast cancer can and does metastasize in 25-30% of cases.

And some women are initially diagnosed at stage IV, despite being diligent about their mammograms.

Although of course  it’s far better to detect breast cancer early, this is not a guarantee  that you have defeated it, which is what this video seems to too simplistically imply. Early detection does not equal cure. It’s not quite that simple.

There’s nothing simple about breast cancer, or any cancer.

That’s why this video, in my opinion, though well-intended, borders on being irresponsible.

We need to be very mindful of how things are stated and how images are portrayed regarding breast cancer information.

This is especially important when the one providing the information is The American Cancer Society.

I expect better.

Do you?

What is your reaction to this video?

Do you think the message is too simplistic or in any way offensive?




37 thoughts to “A Commentary on a Recent ACS’s “Making Strides” Video”

  1. I didn’t exactly find it offensive, but I understand what you’re saying. I’ve not had breast cancer, but if I did I don’t think I’d want the focus to be on my boobs. I’d want it to be on treatment and wellness and how I can work with my doctor to survive something that would undoubtedly be devastating.

    1. Trish, Thanks for understanding where I’m coming from. I just think the focus is wrong considering the source. The ACS is probably the first place people turn to when facing cancer and I believe they need to hold themselves to a higher standard. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I disagree with you on this one. I actually found it fairly effective. The chest shots are in no way sexualized – they’re ordinary looking women in tasteful clothes. And then it switches to faces & shots of the complete women. The effect of that switch is moving decisively away from BC being about only breasts to being about the full woman. To me, the most memorable thing about the vid is that change in focus to the whole person.

    1. Julie, It’s interesting how we perceive things differently isn’t it? As always, I appreciate your viewpoint. We can disagree on this one. Thanks for adding your thoughts here. I appreciate it.

  3. Definitely made me uncomfortable. And by uncomfortable I mean irritated. Did they tap some resources at Komen and the I{heart}Boobies foundation to write this? All about breasts? Really? Are they all about ovaries? A nice video shot at hip level? And is their campaign regarding penile and testicular cancers equally focused on the body parts and not the lives attached to them?

    It’s NOT okay to look at a woman’s chest exclusively. Sorry; it’s just not. And the pan out at the end does not fix that gaff.

    1. Shelli, I understand your “irritability” in this case. I love how you don’t mince words. Your comment is perfect. Thank you for making it. We know where you stand!

  4. Thanks for writing about this, Nancy.

    When I saw the video I was not uncomfortable really. More like disappointed and annoyed. While I agree with Julie above that there is a shift from chest level to person at one point in the video, the focus is clearly about the breasts, both visually and in terms of the accompanying script. It’s sexualized in the same way as many of the boobie campaigns but it is objectifying women with a focus on what is culturally a most prized body part. If you look at the images in the Breast Cancer Consortium’s work, the trends are really obvious. Here is the link. [].

    I also worry about the message that being alive is somehow “proof of beating breast cancer.” It’s really not. It’s just being alive. Too many people who are alive at the 5-year mark, for example, end up having recurrences 10 or 15 years down the road. When they happen, the chances of dealing with a metastatic form increases. And metastatic (stage 4) breast cancer is terminal.

    I know the ACS want to focus on those birthdays, but it’s really a lot more complicated than that.

    Thanks for discussing it.

    Gayle Sulik

    1. Gayle, Disappointed is a far better word to use. I agree. That’s how I felt too really, disappointed. And yes, being alive is proof of being alive, not of beating breast cancer. Word choice matters a great deal. Personally, I found the focus on breasts at the beginning to be just a “higher level” of sexualizing breast cancer. It’s a step up, but still unacceptable to me. I loved the Dirty Pink Underbelly’s comment. Thanks for chiming in on this one, Gayle.

  5. Watching this for the first time – I wanted to scream “I am living proof that breast cancer can be a vicious monster!”
    I have had yearly mammos for about 8 yrs and I still was dx with stage IV from the beginning.
    Maybe if the ACS wanted the focus to be about the breast, perhaps they should provide pics of the breasts that have been removed and are lying in a dish in the lab waiting to be biopsied! That’s the reality of it isn’t it? There is nothing sexy about bc and the scars it brings with it, both inside and out.

    1. Barb, I’m sorry for your stage IV diagnosis. And you make the point perfectly about how mammograms are seriously flawed, though of course, still an important tool. Your points in your latter statements are well taken. Thanks for taking time to comment. My best to you.

  6. I’m with you on this one, Nancy…I was furious when I saw this, tho admittedly I settled down a bit when they FINALLY got to some faces. However, as a woman who was diagnosed at Stage II well before mammography typically kicks in, and ended up mets nearly 10 years later, the message to me personal was clear: YOU FAILED. Well, I didn’t fail…science and the breast cancer industry has failed ME. I agree with you…I expect more from ACS.

    Thanks for addressing this…I haven’t had it in me! XOX

    1. Lori, I’m so glad you voiced your opinion on this. There is a subtle message there to stage IV women which is too bad. I just expect more from ACS too. Thanks so much for commenting.

  7. I must say, I’m surprised by this video. The tone of it in particular doesn’t fit with an organisation which should be informing people about BC, not making light of it. It’s not something that should be made light of…people still live with it, and die of it. I’m quite shocked that the ACS thinks it’s alright to trivialise. Instead, they perpetuate myths about early detection and all that jazz, which aren’t helpful.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Nancy. I’m off to wonder what the world is coming to.

    Take care, my friend.


    1. Casey, Yes, I’m glad you picked up on the messages in there. I was surprised by this video too. As Gayle said, she was disappointed and that’s a far better word than the word “uncomfortable” which I used. It is disappointing. Thanks so much for commenting. And the world is still pretty great. Overall anyway, right?

  8. I, too, was dissappointed in this video. Maybe the month of October should be called “Saving Your Life Awareness” instead. I was diagnosed 3 years ago in Dec and don’t consider myself a survivor-just someone who did what the doctor said would be best. I,for one, am tired of the whole breast cancer awareness month. Who doesn’t know about cancer? If The American Cancer Society isn’t just about breast cancer but all cancers, I would like to see them do “awareness” on penile/testicular cancer with the video shot just of a mans
    groin, but I highly doubt THAT would ever happen. Can’t we please just have “awareness” about ALL cancers and not just the sexy body part ones. This and other reasons is why I do not donate money to any cause-if you want to “feel good” about giving to cancer awareness, do something for someone in your local area who actually does have cancer. I would have loved for someone to go the grocery store or drive my daughter to an activity or mow my lawn while I was receiving treatments. That is where help is needed most. There will never be a cure for cancer,but maybe a way to prevent it in the first place. Only you can save your life, not a campaign of awareness.

    1. Belinda, Thanks for all your great points. And yes, I highly doubt such a video would be made highlighting those other body parts you mentioned. Your suggestion to do something specific for a person dealing with cancer is a good one. Sometimes helping someone directly with your actions, words or dollars is the best way to go. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Nancy, I was disappointed because the way it completely insults the metastatic community and while many breast cancer “survivors” may now show NED (no evidence of disease), we do not know if they are part of the 25-30% that will become MBC. What’s so disappointing is that the ACS does so many great things for cancer like giving free rides to appointments and having places for people to stay like the Hope Lodge in Nashville when people live far away from where they can get treatment, as they also give free rides to the treatment. They are such a wonderful organization that I was proud to volunteer with. We need to let their marketing department know that this is not acceptable and sends the wrong message. I think whoever made it just did not know the real facts and thought they were being “creative” by focusing on the breasts. What a shame. They are such a great organization. How do we let them know this video is not acceptable?

    1. Susan, I agree the ACS does so many wonderful things, but IMO they slipped up this time. It’s disappointing for sure and I agree about the message to the metastatic community, although they did have a stage IV woman featured at the bottom of the page if you noticed. If you volunteered for them at one time you must know who to directly contact. Let me know and I will as well. There has been some talk on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  10. I watch a video like this and honestly I want to see their faces, because as we’ve noted time and again, breast cancer isn’t about the boobs – it’s about the lives of women. (I’m missing one breast, but I don’t imagine that makes me 50% less involved in this issue.) I love a fun campaign, but also appreciate when women are honoured and not just their chests. Their ‘here’s to more birthdays’ idea was really great, it’s a shame it couldn’t have been a greater focus – it’s an idea with hope. ~Catherine

    1. Catherine, I’m all for fun too, but not when it means trivializing women and I guess i agree with Dirty Pink Underbelly’s comment. It’s just not alright. Plus their messages about defeating cancer and mammograms is misleading. Like you, I think their more birthdays campaign is great. Hopefully they’ll pull this one. Thanks for voicing your opinion.

    2. Wow, Catherine…you raise another point. Each and ever woman in that video has apparently in-tact breasts. How different the message might have been if they had included a woman without reconstruction, or a noticeably changed breast from a lumpectomy. At least that would have been more honest messaging!

  11. I agree Nancy. I really appreciate what ACS does, help with my cancer centers booth at the Relay for Life, and am a Reach to Recovery volunteer. But this video made me very uncomfortable, maybe they are just jumping on the “boob” bandwagon, but I felt very disappointed with them. It’s not all about the breast, it’s about the women. We aren’t our breasts, we aren’t our cancer. It didn’t offend me, like the sexualized promos do, but it did make me uncomfortable and sad. It kind of goes back to the awareness thing, we’re all aware, but that doesn’t always help us. I went in two years before diagnosis with a large lump and was told, “no problem, just dense breasts, with a sly smile I was then told, you just have young breasts”. Well two years later when I went back, to different doctors, I was told “why did you wait so long?”

    And next the statement by the women that was cured – hmmmmmm. I wish I had that confidence. I’m 2 1/2 years post diagnosis now, I was told my chance of recurrence was moderately low, but that until you die of something else we don’t know that you are cured of BC. Yesterday I went in for a biopsy of a skin rash on my mastectomy site.

    Maybe the reason that this video made me upset and sad is because of the biopsy yesterday, but I don’t think so. Until it’s about the women, I’m not sure we’re really going to get rid of breast cancer.

    Thank you Nancy, and I think that I’ll send a note to ACS voicing my opinion.

    1. Linda, Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and a little about your personal story. It’s quite shocking actually, that crude statement about your “young” breasts. That shouldn’t be happening. Boy we have a long way to go don’t we and yes, this video was disappointing. It’s interesting you think so too even with your personal connections to the ACS. I’m sorry to hear you had to go in for another biopsy. That’s always so stressful and scary. I hope everything turns out alright there. Keep me posted.

  12. Thank you so very much for your blog, though I am having some difficulty responding b/c unfortunately there is a column asking me to “like”, “tweet” etc., as an advertisement and it is covering up a quarter of what I am typing in this response and there is no way to “x” it out, so I apologize for any typos as I cannot see a quarter of what I am typing.
    I, too, am tired of breast cancer being sexualized. Much of this advertising seems to be made for a straight-male audience and not women themselves! I recently saw an event in my town that posts a woman with large breast implants and cleavage that reads, “Tits for Tits”, and I felt disgusted. Cancer is not sexy. Furthermore, more women die from lung cancer than any other cancer. There are so many types of cancer out there and illnesses that need attention as well. Right now, my husband has a football game on and pink is everywhere. In a sport that is extremely macho and excludes women this all feels very sexist and patronizing. It is so obviously a marketing ploy and they think women are so stupid that we’ll fall for it! With all the products out there and pink everywhere, if the money was really going toward a cure, wouldn’t it be cured by now? And how much goes toward treatment for women who are suffering? What percentage? Men get prostate cancer and we don’t see, “Save the balls” or “save the dicks” or some other equivalent to save the boobies. It’s just sick and wrong.

    Women are made into sex objects in movies, tv shows, video games, etc, and now even through disease. Nothing is sacred in the name of sex, sexism and money.

    1. Andrea, Sorry to hear you’re having some trouble seeing things properly on the blog, I’m not sure what’s up there. Thanks for hanging in there. I hear you about all the sexualization of bc, boy do I hear you. I know the NFL is profiting monetarily themselves from their “well-intended” support of bc awareness. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that people aren’t always aware of or informed about. Thanks for all your good points. Keep making them. And thanks for commenting even though it wasn’t easy to do so!

  13. Maybe they should focus instead on full heads of hair (because it will be lost through chemo) or a woman’s actively moving arms (no longer functioning due to lymphedema). This commercial says “your breasts are the only thing you risk losing,”from cancer — when that is far from the truth.

  14. Nancy,
    Wow, where do I start? The ACS commercial didn’t have the desired effect on me they hoped it would. I found myself wondering what the women looked like: Were they simply models or real women who’d had breast cancer; why didn’t the cameraperson tell her she needed to clip that hangnail? or why did they begin with the tattooed woman? The video was three-quarters of the way over before I realized I hadn’t been paying attention.

    Also, I agree with you about “I defeated breast cancer.” Really? The American Cancer Society knows better than that! That’s just plain irresponsible.

    BTW, I just learned you’re blogging for Huff Post. That’s huge! Congrats, girlfriend!


    1. Brenda, Well, you can start wherever you’d like! You know I didn’t even think about the model thing or if all of them actually had breast cancer or not. I, of course, just assumed they all had been diagnosed, but who knows? Yes, the “defeated” thing is irresponsible and sends a wrong message AGAIN to the metastatic community as well. As I said, I expect better considering the source. Thanks for the congrats. I appreciate it. I’ve already noticed people aren’t quite as “kind” there when they comment. Ha. Thanks for chiming in on this.

  15. It’s “undignified” for an organization like ACS to do this type of campaign. I think that’s the first thing that troubles me. They are the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY for goodness sake… yes, disappointed. The words at the end are what I find extremely offensive. How convenient the speaker was just past that magical 5 year marker that so many want to parade around as THE benchmark. Personally, I’m more scared now, at the 5 1/2 year mark.

    Keep sharing… and yes, I’m loving the Huff Post thing, too!


    1. Ann Marie, Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this one. Great point about the five year benchmark; while it’s a great milestone for sure, it’s not a true “defeat” is it?

  16. Though not as offensive as many awareness videos/slogans out there, this one is still off the mark. I appreciate that they use a variety of women and body types in the video, but there is plenty of misleading information. My concern with the magical 5-year mark is that many don’t realize it is nothing more than a statistical reference point. Whether 2 years out, 5 years out, or 10 or more years out, breast cancer patients need to be vigilant about changes in their bodies. My fear is that some women may feel they are “out of the woods” after 5 years and then end up missing a warning sign, thereby giving a new cancer or a metastasis more time to take hold. “Defeating cancer” is complicated. That is why we need more focus on the right things. I expected better from the ACS.

  17. I watched it a couple of times.. Bottom line it is a big deal because IMO it paints cancer as so many of us have had to deal with.

    Quit your Bitchin it’s only Breast Cancer.

    Breast Cancer is NOT being defeated, defeated means when it is totally eradicated. No evidence of the disease. But we all know it’s still there lurking somewhere we just don’t know when it’s going to rear it’s ugly mug again.

    Sad that lies permeate the video…

    Love Alli…XX

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