Pink ribbons are overdone, funds and research should work to raise awareness for all cancers

October 17, 2016

Eleanor Sturt

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     When the month of October rolls around every year, pink is a common color to see among the reds, yellows and oranges that fall brings each season.

     Pink is used for breast cancer awareness and its ribbon is typically seen all over pink shirts, water bottles and food products. Multiple organizations also fundraise in October to find a cure for breast cancer.

     But it’s too much pink.

     I have the BRCA1 gene. This gene not only increases my likelihood of developing breast cancer, but it also makes me more susceptible to ovarian cancer, a disease that my mother went through chemotherapy for last fall.

     Because of her, I have a more educated understanding of ovarian cancer and the concept that not all cancer diagnoses are the same.

     I am not saying breast cancer is not an issue, because it is. So far this year, 249,260 people have been diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

     We know breast cancer is an issue, but there are more cancers than this one.

     Every cancer is different. Even cases within the same cancer are different; some can be treated by chemotherapy and some cannot, but searching for a cure for specialized cases should not be the focus.

     What many people do not realize is that the color for all cancers is actually lavender, and each individual cancer has its own color, such as ovarian cancer as teal or carcinoid cancer, which has zebra stripes.

     When you realize there are so many different cancers, the pink becomes a little overwhelming. The constant stream of everything from pink clothing to spatulas does nothing to raise awareness, because we are all aware now.

     Granted, the most frequently diagnosed cancer is breast cancer, but it has a relatively decent survival rate.

     In 2016, there have been up to 249,260 new cases of breast cancer and 40,890 breast cancer related deaths. Compare this to the estimated 224,390 new cases of lung cancer, with an estimated 158,080 lung cancer related deaths.

     This means a 16 percent fatality rate for breast cancer and a 70 percent fatality rate for lung cancer. The lung cancer fatality rate is significantly greater, but you don’t hear about lung cancer awareness month.

     That early diagnosis cannot be claimed by all cancers. So much money and effort is put into the cure for breast cancer that there is not enough funding being put toward research on how to efficiently diagnose less noticeable cancers.

     I am not saying all funding for the cure for breast cancer should cease. Rather, the money put toward the cure should be allotted to detect and diagnose other cancers too.

     The search for the cure, especially a cure for just breast cancer, is pointless at a time when so many cases go undiagnosed or are caught too late.

     Instead of jumping on the pink ribbon train, prepare yourself for no-shave November, which has the goal to raise funds for all cancers and for early diagnosis, not just a cure.