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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?





Monday 22nd of October 2012

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


Monday 22nd of October 2012

Alli, Thanks for expressing your opinion so clearly. You don't mince words and I respect that.

Lisa Valentine

Monday 22nd of October 2012

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.


Monday 22nd of October 2012

Lisa, We do need to focus on the right things and the correct messages. The ACS dropped the ball this time. Thanks so much for commenting. Lisa.

AnneMarie @chemobrainfog

Saturday 20th of October 2012

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!



Sunday 21st of October 2012

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?

Friday 19th of October 2012

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!

XOXOXO, Brenda


Friday 19th of October 2012

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.

Elisabeth Dale (@TheBreastLife)

Friday 19th of October 2012

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.


Friday 19th of October 2012

Elisabeth, Excellent points. Thanks for making them.

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