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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: The Debate

Every year October is Breast Cancer Awareness month (or ‘Pink-Tober’), when people show their support for those affected by breast cancer by raising money and wearing the famous pink ribbon.

What people may not know is that there are some cancer patients who feel very passionately that there are serious issues with these awareness days/months, which need to be addressed. At Insurancewith we are always interested in issues that affecting our customers and community, and so we wanted to do our own research into the debate – and the below outlines our findings.   

No matter which side of the debate you sit on, we think everyone can agree and fully support:

Therefore the debate actually stems from:

The Origins of the Pink Ribbon

Many people feel passionately that awareness campaigns, and especially Breast Cancer awareness month, have become too commercialised. This can be traced back to the origins of the ribbon, which was created by breast cancer survivor Charlotte Haley in the 1990s. The original pink ribbon was actually peach coloured, and was used to campaign legislators for more funding for cancer prevention.

Apparently big corporations such as Estee Lauder and Self Magazine then approached Ms Haley and asked for permission to use her ribbon. When she refused, as she wanted to keep the ribbon focussed on her political campaign, they simply changed the colour to pink and the ribbon we all know today was born.

It’s worth noting that the pink ribbon is now an iconic symbol of awareness, which has sparked numerous other campaigns for different illnesses, and has raised millions for research, support and prevention.

For many, it is not the ribbon itself which is the issue, as it can still spark awareness and discussions; instead it is the marketing around the campaign.

What is Pinkwashing?

‘Pinkwashing’ has been coined for when organisations use the pink ribbon or the colour pink as a marketing technique in order to sell more products. If this is a genuine partnership, then that’s great! It raises funds and awareness all in one go. However, the reality is that some of these organisations are simply jumping on the bandwagon, and either donating a very small percentage of the sale to charity, donating nothing at all or are not donating to the right place.

For consumers who are concerned about this, we have some top tips below.

There are some fantastic products and companies out there who are official partners of Breast Cancer Now and other amazing charities.

Calls for Change

Despite the great intentions of Breast Cancer Awareness month, there has been criticism that the awareness initiatives and charity donations don’t go far enough in helping those with secondary breast cancer. The reality is that one in three women diagnosed with primary breast cancer will go on to later receive a secondary diagnosis, but only a small proportion of donations go to fund research, awareness and support for those diagnoses with secondary breast cancer. Uncomfortable as it is, it is secondary breast cancer which people die from, not primary breast cancer.

Therefore there is an urgency for the argument that secondary breast cancer awareness and research should get more funding.

Secondary cancer charities such as Make 2nds Count, and Little Lifts specifically help those affected by a secondary diagnosis, so look out for them on Amazon Smile, or when fundraising or donating.

The reality of breast cancer is scary and potentially life-changing, and survivors believe the serious-ness of that needs to be communicated through marketing, in a way that will still make people look and donate, but also learn.  The majority of people who have been through a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and then possibly a secondary cancer diagnosis will attest, that breast cancer is most certainly not pink and fluffy, which is how it is portrayed in many Breast Cancer Awareness Month marketing campaigns.

There have been calls for more images of real cancer survivors, including those who’ve had mastectomies and other procedures and treatments. This is something that many influencers and bloggers are doing incredibly well, ensuring that;

Recent social media campaigns around Stoma Bags and reducing the stigma attached are great examples of how marketing can work exceptionally well for education, support and fundraising for both camps.

What Can I Do To Support Breast Cancer Awareness?

Top Tips if you want to support any awareness campaigns:

What Else Can I Do?

What are we doing to help breast cancer awareness?

It’s all well and good us telling you what you should do to help during Breast Cancer Awareness month, but what are we doing?

We work with charities like Breast Cancer Haven throughout the year, donating £1 from every policy sold to charities like them and others that support people like our customers every day. Over the years, we’ve donated over £100,000 to help support these organisations and at a time like this, donations are more important than ever.

How do you feel about Breast Cancer Awareness month or awareness campaigns in general? Do they resonate with you, or do you think more needs to be done? We’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings – join our discussion via Facebook and Instagram.

Posted on: Oct 29, 2020

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