October is breast cancer awareness month. For many, the reminder can be painful; for others, it’s a reminder of their survival. The awareness brings about an urge to donate to a number of charities. It also brings about millions of pink products — most of which don’t actually help cancer research or cancer sufferers and survivors in any way. T-shirts bearing a ribbon pass for support, making people believe they are doing something good.
In any disease awareness month, one should be urged to read the fine print. Better charities will state up front how many cents on the dollar they donate directly to cancer research and helping cancer patients, past and present. Charities like Susan G. Komen are not the best choice when it comes to donations. Susan G. Komen only donates 20% of its yearly funds actually go to cancer research. Nearly $1 million every year goes straight to the CEO. In 2012, they even pulled their support for Planned Parenthood, despite the fact the Planned Parenthood saves millions of lives with early cancer detection.
Then there are the charities trying to sexualize breast cancer. The “Save the Ta-tas” foundation tries to promote humor as a means to promote awareness — and while some find the slogan “cute,” many survivors have spoken out about the message the company puts forth. Many survivors have to get one or both breasts removed. Many survivors have had to deal with divorces after their mastectomies because breasts are so sexualized, these terrible husbands couldn’t cope with a wife without them. The message shouldn’t be to “save boobies” — it should be to save people, first and foremost.
Furthermore, many charities sell products that have carcinogens in them, like wrist-bands and cups that have BPA in them. Many companies “pink-wash” during October to promote their brand while not donating much, if any, to cancer research or helping patients and survivors. Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a documentary made in 2011 that goes into many of these issues. Many corporations and charities show perpetual cheeriness in the breast cancer patients and survivors, which creates a huge strain on those actually impacted by the disease. Going through treatment and being forever affected by having had cancer can be a tumultuous experience and only seeing happy imagery can make it seem like they are alone in their sadness and suffering.
That said, there are charities and foundations that do care about patients and survivors. A relatively young foundation (2009) Unite for Her focuses on things that promote wellness and relaxation, with things that complement treatment like good nutrition, massage, spa treatments, and acupuncture.
Another charity, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation donates a whopping ninety-nine cents on every dollar to actual research. The remaining one penny keeps them working and operable.
Finally, The National Breast Cancer Coalition works to promote research of the causes of breast cancer and helps get federal funding for cancer research. (In thirty years, Komen foundation has raised 1.9 billion for cancer research… while the NBCC convinced congress to award 2.1 billion to cancer research in 2011 alone.)
So in the month of October, be as aware of bad charities and foundations as you are of the cancer. Be wary of companies sexualizing breasts for the sake of being funny, and be wary of corporations coloring themselves pink to get more revenue that ultimately goes directly in their pockets. It’s important to promote good charities and support the actual people that are currently suffering or have been affected by breast cancer.
Photo credit WilliamI5.