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.
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?
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.
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!
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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?
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