The Positive Side of "Pinktober"

by GregP_WN

For those in the cancer community, October doesn’t mean Halloween, or football, or changing leaves. October means “Pink,” and the big push for breast cancer awareness.

The Positive Side Of Pinktober

Of course, by mid-month, you’d truly have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the Breast Cancer awareness push – whether you’re in part of the cancer community or not. It’s inescapable. From 3rd grade to the pros, football players don pink socks or gloves. Pink ribbons festoon local stores and municipal buildings. Pink themes are hash-tagged, and Breast Cancer awareness posts appear on nearly everyone’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

Without question, the “pinking” of October has made breast cancer awareness the gold standard of disease awareness programs. And many of those in the WhatNext community believe that while “Pinktober” has its flaws and shortcomings, the focus it puts on cancer patients and the search for a cure continues to have an overall positive effect.

WhatNexter BarbarainBham wonders “what could be wrong with promoting awareness of early diagnosis saving lives, getting mammograms, and funding for research and need patients?”

And to a large degree, BarbarainBham is correct about the largely beneficiary dividends of the Pinktober push. Though the move towards a cure still seems to be going at a snail’s pace, Pinktober has certainly made a positive impact on early detection of breast cancer. Mammography centers all over the country routinely see a spike in the number of women seeking breast cancer screenings during October.

“It definitely helps raise awareness,” writes LiveWithCancer from the WhatNext forums. “If there is a woman alive who doesn’t know about breast cancer screening, she has lived in a total bubble.”

Breast Cancer survivor Nancy Stordahl who runs the blog “Nancy’s Point: A Blog about Breast Cancer and Loss,” writes that October is “an opportunity to reach a few more people out there who might be willing to listen to more than media hype or cheering pink crowds … I think more and more people are listening to the broader meaning of what true awareness is and is not. At least I hope so.”

Nancy's Point

Yet an increasing segment of the cancer community views Pinktober with cynicism and disdain. So much so that it seems as though those on the “pro” side of the debate are increasingly in the minority. But even the “pro” camp has its criticisms.

“Pinktober doesn't particularly bother me, but the selling of everything pink and so little money going to the cause is ridiculous,” writes WhatNexter Karen1956, adding that “if Pinktober helps one woman get screened its good. Just let's stop the pink vacuums, mixers, fried chicken boxes, etc.”

Ejourneys from the forums has an interesting take on the perceived “negatives” of Pinktober; she thinks they can actually turn into a positive. “Little by little, the backlash against the more superficial and craven aspects of Pinktober make it into the mainstream media,” Ejourneys writes. “Which can in turn help focus attention on resources like Charity Navigator and general research needs.”

BarBarainBham is a breast cancer patient herself and wonders what motivates the “anti-Pinktober” crowd. “Maybe some people are Negative Nellies,” she writes. “Those of you who have complaints about money for research need to realize that October is about much more than research. There are many uninformed and needy women who need to be reached and encouraged to have mammograms. Cancer treatment for the needy is another goal.”

“It gets more women to the doctor for a mammogram,” agrees LiveWithCancer, who is herself a lung cancer patient. “I would think it offers some hope to newly diagnosed. It creates a community. Without a doubt, it raises lots and lots of money.”

However, there is some concern about “pinkwashing” during Breast Cancer Awareness Month– that’s when a company promotes or sells a Breast Cancer Awareness product, but then never actually donates the money. It’s a despicable way to drive company sales for the month, and dupes consumers into believing they’re contributing to the cause – but in reality, they’re just adding to a company’s bottom line.

To keep a positive outlook on the Pinktober efforts, you might want to visit ThinkBeforeYouPink.org, a nonprofit project associated with Breast Cancer Action (bcaction.org) that calls for more transparency and accountability in breast cancer fundraising.

Think Before You Pink

Like it or hate it, there's no denying that the whole "Pinktober" movement does draw attention to breast cancer, and in turn, other cancers. It also raises an enormous amount of money for "awareness" and research. Much of the criticism of the pink movement is that to much money goes to "awareness" and not to research to find a cure. But as time goes on, much of the movement is beginning to realize this and more money is being funneled into research. 

Those patients with stage IV breast cancer are particularly critical of the pinkwashing of October. Those with metastatic breast cancer are painfully "aware" of breast cancer and are fighting for their lives. They want new treatments or a cure, not awareness. 

What’s your take on thinking pink? Comment below and let us know.

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