Health Magazine

Whose Awareness Are We Trying to Raise?

Posted on the 18 September 2015 by Jean Campbell

 awarenessIn a two weeks, pink things will emerge in stores and shops, in catalogs and on TV shopping networks in the name of breast cancer awareness.

The rationale for the Pinking of October…raise awareness about breast cancer by engaging the public in supporting breast cancer research and services.

Question: How does the  purchasing  and wearing of pink promotional items, for one month, make us aware of our own personal breast cancer risk? When you buy pink items, how much of what you pay for these items actually goes to breast cancer awareness activities, research, or services? It’s a question worth asking.

I am all for events, run by reputable organizations, to raise money for breast cancer research and to raise awareness along the way. Once again, before you sign up for that walk or run or any kind of a fund raising event, find out how much of the money raised goes to breast cancer research or services. Ask, when called, how much of your donation will go to the organization and how much goes to the fundraising company conducting the telephone campaign.

I guess I have one big question…whose awareness are we trying to raise?

If, like me, you have had breast cancer, or are living with metastatic breast cancer you don’t need to be made aware, you already have all the awareness you need. If you are currently going through active treatment for breast cancer, then you are at the height of your awareness.

If you are a friend, family member, spouse, significant other, parent, or child of a survivor, if you have lost someone to this disease or are a person living with breast cancer as a chronic disease, you know, first hand, the toll this disease takes on the person with breast cancer and their loved ones.

Yes, that still leaves a lot of people who need to know about breast cancer.

It leaves people who live in communities where English is a second language and TV and radio and newspapers are in languages other than English. They don’t hear or see awareness messages because they don’t listen to English TV or radio and there are few breast cancer awareness messages in their primary languages. This has to change. Far too many women and men, seen in public hospitals, present with advanced breast cancers because they don’t know the first thing about breast cancer. They are horrified when they hear what treatments lay in store.


  • Funding for breast cancer awareness ads for TV, radio and newspapers for non-English speakers.

  • Develop grassroots campaigns that train volunteers (preferably survivors) who speak the language of  residents, understand the culture and customs of the communities and can educate women and men through church and community organizations .

Another area in need of awareness…what are the needs of women now living with breast cancer as a chronic disease?  How can we support women who have metastatic breast cancer, a cancer that has spread to distant organs, for whom cure is not an operative word, for whom ongoing treatments can and do prolong life, often for years. How can we contribute to their quality of life?


  • Be Aware that little of the monies raised for breast cancer go to metastatic breast cancer research. While breast cancer research is key to a cure, there are women living with this disease who need support and resources and services in the here and now.
  • Find out from the breast cancer organizations you support with your time and donations what they are doing to to support women with metastatic disease. If they are not providing services for women with metastatic disease, advocate for them doing so.
  • On a more personal level, if you know someone with metastatic disease, don’t shy away, call and suggest getting out together for some fun time, if he or she is up to it, if not, visit.
  • Help with something that needs doing…babysitting, if there are young children, running errands, being the driver to appointments, being a chemo buddy and providing company in the infusion room.

This October, I will give breast cancer awareness seminars in the greater NYC metropolitan area in memory of friends who died from this disease, former classmates and colleagues. I will continue to celebrate life with  friends living with metastatic disease.

When October is over and the pink ribbons and promotions are put away for another year, please don’t put away the need for ongoing breast cancer awareness. Continue to reach out to members of your family and your circle of friends and be that voice encouraging those who keep putting off mammograms to get them. Offer to go to the doctor’s with the friend who puts off checking out that small lump that she is sure will be nothing.

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