Skip to main content
#BCAM: Have we reached awareness saturation? #breastcancer #pinkribbons #womenshealth #advocacy

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Have We Reached the Point of Awareness Saturation?

For the last few years, I’ve been reading, and you probably have been too, statements such as: We are all aware of breast cancer. Enough with the awareness. Everyone knows about breast cancer and other similar sentiments.

As I’ve written before, if you ask anyone on the street what a pink ribbon stands for or what month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’m pretty sure 9 out of 10 people over the age of 10 (probably younger), would know.

Most people in the US anyway are aware. In fact, I’d also say more than a handful of people find BCAM down right annoying. Yep. People are aware alright. Aware and often annoyed.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month:  Have we reached awareness saturation? #breastcancer #BCAM #pinkribbons #Pinktober

So, have we reached the point of awareness saturation?

Is it time to move on from awareness?

Maybe. Maybe not.

In much of the world and certainly in the circles, internet and otherwise, that I hang out in, this is probably true. And you, my Dear Readers, are too darn aware. Oh yeah, awareness saturation fits.

But is the general public truly aware?

Of this, I am not so certain.

I guess it depends on what you mean by awareness. Most people are aware, but aware of what isn’t quite as clear.

Sure, most people are familiar with the pink ribbon and what it stands for, but do most people understand what a breast cancer diagnosis really means?

  • Do most people realize men can get breast cancer too?
  • Do most people know that early detection doesn’t guarantee survival and that 20-30% of early stage diagnoses will progress to stage IV, sometimes years, even decades, later?
  • Do most people know that breast cancer doesn’t always present with a lump?
  • Do most people understand that there will be 42,000 deaths from metastatic breast cancer this year in the US alone?
  • Do most people understand that breast cancer is not one bit fun and sexy, nor an opportunity for a free boob job?
  • Do most people realize the disproportional amount of dollars going to research vs. education, awareness, etc?
  • Do most people even know what metastatic breast cancer is?

I could go on, but you get my point.

Despite the fact that this year is the 34th year of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, these things (and many others) are not widely understood at all.

With all the attention the almighty pink ribbon has managed to garner year after year, you gotta wonder why we haven’t moved the needle beyond superficial awareness.

We need more than superficial awareness. That’s just not good enough. We need real, broader awareness based on facts rather than incomplete, sometimes even frivolous messaging.

What’s been often messaged to the public for the past two+ decades is worn out and has likely in some ways, added to the illusion that breast cancer isn’t all that bad.

Superficial awareness likely leads mostly to superficial action. Lord knows, we get plenty of the latter. This has been part of the problem with Breast Cancer Awareness Month for years now.

A prime example has been lots of jumping onto the pink ribbon marketing bandwagon. The pink ribbon turned into a marketing goldmine. But where has all that jumping really gotten us?

BCAM:  Have we reached awareness saturation? #breastcancer #pinkribbons #breastcancerawareness
From the graphic comic, “Pink Ribbon Envy” by Adam Bessie and Dan Archer, via Flickr

You might want to read, We Cannot Shop Our Way Out of Breast Cancer.

And then, let’s not forget (like we ever could) all those crazy, demeaning, superficial shenanigans that unbelievably, still go on in 2019.

You know what I’m talking about – balloon breasts on dogs, rocks painted to look like breasts, bras strapped on over clothes or hung up across clotheslines, bridges and on storefronts, food made to look like breasts and lots of talk about grabbing, feeling or squeezing those boobies, melons, honkers and tatas.

Have we reached awareness saturation? #breastcancerawareness #BCAM #breastcancer #womenhealth #Pinktober
I mean really, why are we still putting up with this kind of crap?

Trivializing Breast Cancer Needs to Stop!

Again, superficial awareness likely leads mostly to superficial action.

Real awareness, on the other hand, has the best chance of leading to meaningful action. And only meaningful action will, in turn, be most likely to lead to meaningful progress – progress that results in improving treatments, extending and saving lives and ultimately, preventing breast cancer in the first place.

Organizations, big and small, as well as advocates and individuals in general, need to step it up a notch, no several notches.

We all have to do an even better job at continuing to shine a light on what a breast cancer diagnosis truly means, regardless of stage or gender, and we also must keep calling for more dollars to be put toward research specific to understanding everything about metastasis. Ultimately, this helps us all.

Perhaps it’s not time to give up on awareness quite yet. We just need the right kind.

You might want to read, 12 Things You Can Do All Year Long to Support Breast Cancer Awareness.

Now, let’s hear YOUR ideas!

To get more articles like this delivered weekly to your inbox, Click Here! #KeepingItReal

What ideas do you have to move beyond superficial awareness?

Have you seen more or less pink ribbon marketing this year?

Do you think we’ve reached awareness saturation?

If you like this post, please share it. Thank you!

Have we reached awareness saturation? #breastcancerawareness #breastcancer #BCAM #Pinktober #womenshealth

20 thoughts to “Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Have We Reached the Point of Awareness Saturation?”

  1. I see less of the pink marketing compared to 5-6 years ago, I think. I remember seeing pink cupcakes and such in the past. Now I don’t see very much of that. I think I also see a lot less on social media.

    However, a certain airline is way too excited about breast cancer awareness. I did notice that!

    1. Lindsay, I’m seeing way less pink marketing too. So, I gotta believe we’ve made some progress. I’m sure the airline you mentioned thinks its doing great things, but I wonder if its donating any money directly to research. Or anything breast cancer related, for that matter.

  2. I think you raise some excellent points (as always). I am troubled by the amount of “awareness” campaigns generally as I am concerned that too much causes people to tune it all out. Every day it seems like it is awareness day for something else. Consequently I fear it inadvertently lends to trivialization of that which we do truly need to be made aware of. And few things top cancer for that about which we need to be aware. In addition, I am puzzled about what it is exactly that we are hoping to accomplish by all of the awareness campaigns. More screening? More funding? Both? Other? I think the messaging is being lost. More is not always better.

    1. Jeff, There are a lot of awareness campaigns out there, that’s for sure. People will tune them out due to overload, you’re so right about that. Revisiting goals of any campaign is always a good idea. The primary goal and question to be asked by any breast cancer awareness campaign should always be, is this helping to save lives? Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  3. I think there are different levels of awareness. Probably 99.9% of people know about the “early-detection-saves-lives” line. And awareness that men can get BC too is slowly increasing. But I don’t think most are aware that a sizable percentage of early stage BC will become metastatic and that MBC isn’t just a failure of early detection.

    1. Fortunately I have seen a little less of the pink ribbon crap this year, so that’s good, although there was a lot of junk being sold on FB. What I would like to see is more people dropping a few bucks into research for BC and MBC so we can someday put all this awareness behind us. And all kinds of cancer really.

  4. Nancy, Spot on and I’m tired of pink and awareness. They don’t explain you first lose a year of your life for treatment. It’s always creeping around in your thoughts. Now let’s make the awareness more research focused. The public needs to recognize there is no cure for cancer. The psychological effects are awful. It’s said you don’t have an expiration date but…with cancer it’s a sell by date.

    1. Leddy, Thank you for adding your points to this discussion. The psychological effects are not discussed widely enough. And all the pink-party shenanigans too often end up putting a way too happy face on breast cancer, IMO.

  5. I’m so happy that the gym I go to has gotten the message this year to tone the pink down. In years past the whole gym was pinked out for the entire month on October. This year they put up a few pink ribbon banners about 1 week before the run in our area and then took it down shortly after. In years past I’ve avoided going to the in October because it was too much for me being newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

    1. Kim, That sounds like progress! I’m wondering if you mentioned anything to management about this year’s approach being better. Sometimes that in your face stuff is just too much. And accomplishes little. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Well….I gotta tell you,
    I am a little disappointed in this years pink stink.
    I thought for sure that there would be more valuable info pushed on us
    with the latest findings and risk factors:
    Like dense breasts, (being told if you have them after your mammo is supposed to become universal now, or I thought it was) and why it is a risk factor or important to know
    …………..and why your boyfriend or girlfriend can’t determine that for you
    the argument for plant based diets (mmmmmm,… not. And there are a lot of perfect eaters and exercisers who get the disease too, why?)
    Hereditary causes or lack thereof ( heredity is a small percent, I think woman can be fooled into thinking it plays a much larger role than it really does after all the BRCA racket and its not just for women, men should be tested too!)
    Too much alcohol (really? whaaa……guess that pink martini is a bad idea?
    Obesity (I hate that term, I almost prefer fat)
    Too many snickers bars (sigh…….) Sugar bad……
    SStressss and anxiety (PFffft!)
    Too many drive thru burgers ( I am sure you are right, but……..)
    Over 50 years of age (Ding! Times up! You’re getting old!
    What about all those young women with stage 3 and 4?)
    Didn’t have children?
    Didn’t breast feed? Both risk factors…………..
    Got Guilt,? Risk factor……..

    Being a woman (but what about guys and their heredity?)
    Environmental??? Breathing bad air….
    Not breathing mindfully?? ( I know, I know, I did the mindful exercises,
    I get it, I do it…..sometimes)
    Not drinking enough water
    Drinking too much bad water
    Drinking too much bottled water???
    Uh Ohhh…….
    Is anyone else disturbed by the photos of all the tiny plastic particles that are drifting in our oceans
    (and bottled water???) and eaten by the fish and whatever else we eventually eat?
    Please don’t disturb me, I am disturbed enough…………(was this a bumper sticker?)

    I am waiting for the radiology scheduling to call to set up my 6 month follow up breast MRI (Argh!!!)
    I got the reminder letter last week
    and I am waiting, and waiting and waiting for them to call…………………..
    Will I have to call the doc to remind them to get the referral?
    Will my insurance company call the ball on a second MRI in a year?
    Will I freak out when I am in the machine?
    I must call the doc to remind him to give me meds for the willies……
    I must stop obsessing about it all the time………………will I someday hear you’ve got mets
    And thinking about all those who already heard those words
    It makes me sad…………..and mad……..and scared……And then I feel guilty that I can’t afford to give money to research, but sharing my words and experiences will have to be enough for now

    I tell you, I am pretty darn aware right at this moment and none to happy about it!!!
    I am also fasting at the moment, because tomorrow at 8:15 am, I will get blood drawn to check my cholesterol that spiked after I started taking letrozole (been taking it 3 years so far!!)
    Yup, on the statins and feeling pretty shitty………….or shittier……..
    Also just started taking minocycline for perioral dermatitis on my face (and shittier still….)
    ………that cropped up over the past 2 years…hmmm…
    I sure am living the dream and freeeeking aware!!
    And of course I am aware I could go for a snickers bar, right now,
    just because I can’t……..
    (and I actually haven’t had one in months, by the way…..)
    Mmmm, this ice water is gooood………
    Ooopss..selfish rant over, sarcasm is subsiding, getting tired…………………hope I can sleep
    Never mind…………..
    Thank you………………
    So, what was the question???

  7. I am not happy about all the breast references this month, especially now that I’ve just had a bilateral mastectomy with no reconstruction. So, since I failed to “save the boobies” do I not matter this month?

    And I was getting regular mammograms but my type of cancer doesn’t show easily on them and it appears it has been growing for years. So much for “awareness” and “early detection”.

    And in my researches I discovered the tidbit that no one wants to hear…only about 33% of breast cancer can be linked to heredity, environmental factors or lifestyle. That leaves a whopping two-thirds that is just “yup, there it is” with no explanation or cause. (and therefore no way to reduce your risk)

    I’d much rather see effort put into treatments that don’t ruin your quality of life. Too many doctors are pooh-poohing devastating side effects like peripheral neuropathy and not enough studies are following cancer patients past 10 years, now that the longevity has increased.

    Thank you, Nancy, for posts that are on point and for providing a space to speak candidly!

  8. This is such a tricky topic. All the reasons you list here is why I’ve said (a million times) that we need UNDERSTANDING of breast cancer rather than mere awareness. 30 odd years of this campaign has simply provided slogans so a segment of the population go through the motions, get the mammo as part of some ritual, without really seeing any depth.
    I see several people seem to also think that the pink has been less in the face this year. I think I agree (but I question the blinders I’ve put on myself). But it seems it is still present, just in a going-thru-the-motions way. It’s just another part of the October landscape–mixed right in there with garish costumes. Races and alcohol-centric fundraisers are just done by rote.
    As for the actual saturation of awareness–I think back to your post about breast cancer being the shopping disease. As such, it is marketed directly to the segment of women that can, you know, shop. I know there are some stats that study disparities in say, women of color-has the impact of awareness campaigns been factored into the studies–honestly asking, I don’t know. I mean sure, pink pens are sold at Dollar General–a store in my region directly targeting the lowest socio-economic level. But I’m not sure even the most basic message about early detection has saturated there. It’d be interesting if there was a study there too. I might be a bit oversensitive on this aspect tho. I remember when some department store linked up with Komen a few years ago and everyone wanted to boycott them–and I was like, I already boycott them because I cannot afford to shop there anyway!

    1. CC, I can only speak for myself, but I have definitely seen less pink marketing this year. You hit the nail on the head with that word “understanding” as that is definitely what is needed. Understanding if a far different thing than awareness. Thanks for chiming in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *