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Has There Been a Breast Cancer Cover-up?

Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been going on now since 1985. There has been a lot of awareness (about exactly what is debatable) raised over the years as the dark veil of breast cancer has been lifted, but at the same time, has another veil been dropped?

Has Breast Cancer Awareness Month, unintentionally or not, been about cover-up all these years as well?

I do not in any way wish to diminish the good that has happened as a result of BCAM and there has been good accomplished.

The number one accomplishment is probably the simple fact that no one whispers about breast cancer anymore. The shame of a breast cancer diagnosis isn’t what it used to be. There is still shame, but that’s a topic for another day. It’s more accurate to say that people no long whisper about breast cancer.

In fact, the opposite is true; breast cancer is the annoyingly ‘loud’ cancer to some these days.

Secondly, there’s no doubt about it, BCAM has helped put an end to our modesty, or rather hesitancy to talk openly about breasts. There’s certainly no hesitancy when it comes to talking about breasts these days. In fact, sometimes it seems as if BCAM should be called ‘Breast Awareness Month’.

But have we covered up the disease too well and focused too much on saving breasts rather than on saving lives?

Isn’t this a sort of cover-up?

And back to that shame thing…

Some women say they feel pressure to do breast cancer a certain way. They feel pressure to stay positive, appear strong and act brave. There is shame sometimes when one instead feels depressed, weak and afraid. Genuine feelings are sometimes buried or concealed. Concealing genuine feelings can feel like yet another cancer burden to carry.

Ultimately, has BCAM encouraged women to be genuine or encouraged them to cover-up true feelings?

Hmm… You decide.

During many BCAM pink events, people dress up in silly costumes and adorn themselves with pink whatever it might be. I’m not saying doing either is wrong, but something about it has always made me uneasy.

Is it because it appears to be yet another breast cancer reality cover-up, yet another sort of glossing over?

I am reminded of that recent Today Show set where everything, and I do mean everything, was pink. (And again, I love pink) Was this just another example of too much pink, too much cover-up, or just too much of something?

Maybe. Maybe not. I guess as always, it depends on your perspective.

I do know one thing for sure. Nothing about breast cancer is pretty, pink or party-like. No amount of pink can cover-up this fact, not for me anyway.

And turning everything in sight pink doesn’t necessarily make women with breast cancer feel better or more supported.

Have we forgotten that sometimes less is more?

Taking things even further, the disfiguring mastectomies and lumpectomies are in a sense covered up with reconstruction and/or prostheses are they not? And far too often breast cancer is perceived by some as an opportunity for that infamous free boob job.

Talk about a reality cover-up!

And let’s not forget about the chemo cover-up. A literal covering up. There are scarves, hats, wigs and fake lashes and brows available for purchase to cover the evidence here too.

And don’t get me wrong, I wore a wig. I had reconstruction.

Breast cancer treatment of any kind (and the lingering side effects) can be harsh and difficult; no one should ever have to pretend otherwise. Yet sometimes it seems as if the faster you get on with things and appear to have put it all behind you, it’s often perceived that you have done a better job handling cancer.

Ready or not. Cover it up. Move on…

Why do so many often work so hard at covering up breast cancer reality?

And who among us has not experienced the marketing cover-up that has been going on for years. It’s now old news that far too many businesses and companies have been covering up how many dollars (if any) they have been actually donating to ‘support breast cancer awareness’.

Thankfully, this is changing, but pinkwashing is still alive and well.

One of the biggest cover-ups during BCAM has been the literal covering up of metastatic breast cancer. Add to this the covering up of some science-based facts; such as, early detection (though important) is not everything. Mammograms aren’t as perfect as proclaimed for so long. The ‘orphan’ breast cancers, inflammatory and triple negative, have been under-discussed/covered up. And the list could go on…

Do you ever wonder if we weren’t covering up breast cancer reality so well, we might be making more progress at least on some fronts?

Do you ever wonder if we weren’t covering up breast cancer reality so well, it might not be so often portrayed as an ‘opportunity’ to transform or improve oneself?

Has BCAM made us more aware?

Yes. And no.

Has BCAM been too ‘successful’ at covering up breast cancer reality?

I say yes.

What do you think? I want to know.

Has too much of breast cancer reality been covered up all these years?

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Has there been a breast cancer cover-up? #breastcancer #pinkribbon #breastcancerawarenessmonth

Sheila Lau

Wednesday 23rd of October 2019

I don’t know if it is a cover-up, but I agree with Mandi who said there is total lack of education. There is little about remembering the thousands who have lost their lives. I agree that there is little or no mention of those with MBC, or severe long and late term effects of treatment. I am one of the latter, and it’s difficult living in a world with a mindset that you have treatment and then return to life as before.


Thursday 24th of October 2019

Sheila, Thank you for sharing. Sadly, Mandi died from MBC. That is reality that should not be covered up.

Cancer Curmudgeon

Tuesday 22nd of October 2019

Hmmm, reading this 5 years after you wrote it, I recoil from the phrase "cover up" because of political conspiracy theory implications. Back in 2014 I might have embraced the idea. These days (with age, distance from DX , and uh, something short of wisdom), I'd say it's just part of our American insistence on only "being positive". It's just another result, another symptom of our inability to grasp reality when we dislike it. Breast cancer culture is an interesting microcosm of our culture at large. I was told I was too negative in BC, now I'm told I'm not positive enough in some of my current endeavors. What can you do?

It's a hell of a "cancer lesson" eh? (wicked laugh)


Thursday 24th of October 2019

CC, There are different sorts of cover-ups, but I get where you're coming from. I agree that breast cancer culture is an interesting microcosm of our culture in general. Thank you for sharing your insights.

Carol A Miele

Wednesday 9th of October 2019

Although BC awareness has been around sine 1985, we still don't have accurate data on the actual number of people with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). the SEER database only collects the stage of BC at diagnosis, but doesn't have a way to capture the data when that early stage BC spreads and becomes MBC! Even death certificates don't capture it. May will list the complication of MBC, like pneumonia, as the primary cause of death. MBC may not even make it onto the death certificate despite it being the very reason for the mortality! Is this a cover up? IDK. There just doesn't seem to be any urgency of finding out how many of us metsters are out here! If we knew the real number, perhaps the color pink would do a fast fade out....

Another thing, when celebrities die of MBC, its always listed as a complication of breast cancer. Apparently there is absolute fear of printing the word 'metastatic' in the obituary or story of remembering the person's life. Maybe they specified in their last wishes they wanted no mention of 'metastasis' in their obit or memoriam. Why not? Its not the plague or leprosy How will we educate, inform and just be open & honest if we refuse to name it or say it....maybe even think it??

These celebrities are in a position to do a lot for raising money to fund more research to find a cure, but, instead, keep it veiled like a deep, dark secret. Folks, this is not the Dark Ages! IT's time for MBC to come out of the closet! It seems in this age of social sharing that its the only thing that isn't out & open.


Thursday 10th of October 2019

Carol, Thank you for sharing your astute observations.

Alene Nitzky

Friday 31st of October 2014

Here's what I see. My take, as a nurse, someone who has never been diagnosed with cancer but has a strong family history of cancer (sister, father, grandmother)...Not only are people uncomfortable with death, they are uncomfortable with anything that is not painted in a positive light. Bad things happen in this world and we need to acknowledge that not everything can be easily turned upside down into a smile and a silver lining seen in it. A lot is covered up for the sake of keeping everyone else in their comfort zone. Doctors aren't always honest with patients, about how much they will endure once a diagnosis of cancer is made. And the reality of breast cancer, the one that people live when they are at home and not out in public, is covered up. No one sees the bad days, the tears, the days when you feel sorry for yourself, the days you look and feel like you got run over by a truck, or the days when you are angry at the world and everybody in it. You're supposed to hide that part and pretend it's all the brave soldier smiling and going off to battle...that's not fair and it covers up a reality for the public that makes it so much harder for EVERYONE. Less understanding of what a person goes through with cancer, and pressure on the person with cancer to minimize the impact of the disease on their life. Hell, even if you are lucky enough to get through a cancer diagnosis with initial treatment and there is no recurrence, being afraid to approach your doctor about a question out of fear of being called a hypochondriac... not only do we need to put our donations in the right places, we need total health care reform that works for human beings instead of the few and wealthy.


Saturday 1st of November 2014

Alene, Thank you so much for your insights. I think you have made many excellent points.

Beth L. Gainer

Friday 31st of October 2014


This is a great post! I agree that much has been covered up, especially metastatic breast cancer. I think our culture tends to be uncomfortable with death and unfortunately this is the reason for all the pink hoopla. I wear a prosthesis and had reconstruction, so to some extent, I've provided a coverup of my own. And I feel shame whenever someone congratulates me on surviving. I feel pressure to meet up to others' expectations.


Saturday 1st of November 2014

Beth, It's sad that you feel shame when someone congratulates you on surviving and it's sad that you feel pressure to meet expectations that are out there. You're certainly not alone and there are many expectations. I agree that the biggest cover-up of all has been about mbc, but this is changing. Thankfully so. Thank you for reading and sharing some thoughts.

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