October's observances of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the U.S. typically unleash a flood of pink-beribboned merchandise from companies that promise to donate a percentage of the proceeds to foundations that promote breast cancer awareness. But frequently, such a small amount of money goes toward the causes they promote, that Breast Cancer Action, a non-profit that advocates for research into environmental causes of breast cancer, calls it "Breast Cancer Industry Month." Every year, BCA puts together Think Before You Pink, a disturbing and informative directory of pink breast-cancer awareness products (from vacuums to Barbie dolls to Lean Cuisine frozen entrees) along with alternative ways to donate money for breast-cancer research.
Although I’m no fan of the deluge of pink products, their prominence on U.S. shelves speaks to a big piece of good news: Breast cancer awareness in the United States is higher than ever before. Here in the U.S., most girls are taught to do breast self-exams by the time we're in our teens; posters in doctors' offices admonish us to start getting mammograms by the time we're 40, and to learn our medical history so we can assess our personal risk of getting breast cancer early and act accordingly.
Historically, women in other countries, particularly the developing world, haven't been so fortunate. Although average life spans are getting longer around the world, people in developing nations are increasingly susceptible to Western diseases like breast cancer -- and often lack medical infrastructure to detect and treat them. In many countries, women are afraid to talk about breast cancer for fear of being abandoned by their husbands and families; in India, Time Magazine reported recently, women with breast cancer may be forced to use separate utensils and plates because of the widespread belief that the disease is contagious.
But that all may be changing. Nongovernmental organizations and grassroots groups are beginning to spread accurate information about breast cancer in countries where the subject has traditionally been taboo, making early detection and treatment possible in ways it never was before. In Egypt, for example, where breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, religious leaders speak out in favor of breast-cancer awareness and screenings. An organization called HOPE-Egypt provides breast cancer victims, survivors, and people who have lost family members to breast cancer with medical and support resources to help them detect, treat, and cope with the disease. Meanwhile, the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt provides subsidized mammograms and treatment, wigs, support groups, and awareness campaigns.
In Hungary, women between 45 and 65 are entitled to a free mammogram every year, although implementation of the program has been slow; a similar program is in the works in China. In Namibia, the Reach for Recovery support group just recently took its first-annual Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign to hospitals and clinics in northern Namibia, where breast cancer awareness has traditionally been almost nonexistent. And in Mexico, the national healthcare plan now includes the equivalent of $20,000 for breast cancer treatment for every woman in the country.
These steps are incremental, but they’re important. The more widely information about breast cancer is disseminated, the sooner developing nations will be able to turn to treatment, identification of causes, and, eventually, a cure.
Image credit: flickr/akirsa
As we all know the pink ribbon is the globally-recognized symbol for promoting Breast Cancer Awareness, help spread the word by carrying these checks and matching accessories.
Note that this design is available in single and duplicate check formats. Matching address labels, contact cards and leather checkbook covers are also available
Great article Erica,
Breast cancer awareness is an interesting subject. While the existence of the disease is now better known, in my doctoral work I've learned that a majority of people still are misinformed when it comes to screening.
I have been studying the topic of breast cancer education in a global setting for a few years now and think the solution to this is to pair specific educational messages with the pink ribbon promotions. Afterall, hearing "exam yourself" doesn't explain what cancer feels like, looks like, or when it's best to check for it.
I approach the subject as a graphic designer and explore how visuals can communicate globally while overcoming taboo. Feel free to look at my work at my website: worldwidebreastcancer.com
In particular see Investigation > Signs.
When we're together, breast cancer doesn't stand a chance!
It's really amazing to have so much attention on breast cancer awareness, but at the same time it does hurt to see these companies using a fatal condition to promote their product.
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