Monday, October 1, 2012

"The history of breast cancer advocacy" And What It can Mean To The Melanoma Community

October, aka Pinktober, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It seems to now run all year long as it's not unusual to walk into any store, anytime, that sells anything, and see various products that are pink. The consumer may, or may not be, informed how buying a particular item will help with breast cancer research or awareness...and that is becoming an issue within Pink Nation.

I have nothing against Pink. Close relatives of mine either have fought, or are currently fighting, their own battles. Once a person becomes a citizen of Cancer World, we are united. We share a common bond and we share journeys and walks. Our paths are very similar in many ways.

But Pink outpaces all other cancers in funding and awareness. Those of us in other cancer communities turn green with envy. How did Pink get in such an enviable position? I think most people are, at least, somewhat familiar with the history of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. But what about the history of breast cancer funding and research? How did it get to center stage?

I looked it up and this is what is found in an article about that from National Center for Biotechnology Information (This is copied/pasted. As a matter of fact, it is the entire abstract):

The history of breast cancer advocacy.
"There have been four key steps in the advent of breast cancer advocacy: priming the market, engaging consumers, establishing political advocacy, and taking the advocacy mainstream. Breast cancer was surrounded by secrecy until the 1980s, when brave individuals such as former First Ladies Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan, and founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Nancy Brinker (Susan Komen's sister), began speaking publicly about the personal impact of the disease, which increased awareness of breast cancer and made it more acceptable to talk about it openly. At the same time, statistics about breast cancer were presented in new ways that the public could understand. Public health advocates played a key role in the second step, engaging consumers, when they established guidelines in the 1980s that encouraged women to perform breast self-examinations (BSEs) and have screening mammograms and clinical breast examinations (CBEs). Other events that helped engage consumers were increased media coverage of breast cancer issues, the founding of the Komen Race for the Cure in 1983, and the establishment of other programs that both educated the public and raised funds. Funds from these efforts enabled advocates to hold educational forums and produce educational materials in different media and tailored to different audiences and to become active in the funding of research. The third step, political action, became possible when breast cancer advocates joined together in the 1980s and 1990s to work toward legislative, regulatory, and funding changes, such as passage of the Mammography Quality Standards Act and increased funding for the National Cancer Institute. These efforts contributed to a more than quadrupling of federal funding for breast cancer research in the 1990s. Going mainstream, the final step in the advocacy process, entailed establishing a solid base of support to ensure that the message about breast cancer stays strong and fresh. This has been achieved by engaging the business, government, and scientific communities as partners in advocacy."

To borrow the image from Black Is The New Pink, we need to be aware that Black really is fast becoming the "new pink" and will, in fact, replace lung cancer as the most common cancer within ten short years. (Note: lung cancer is actually the most diagnosed cancer). Melanoma is already the most common cancer of young adults (that includes women) and the second most common of young people ages 15-29. This highlights breast cancer awareness effectiveness though. It's not the number one cancer, lung is, but I bet most people don't know that. THAT'S how effective their campaign is!  This also demonstrates how they have grown to overshadow the cancer that is now on the fast track of replacing lung, AND, is the the deadliest cancer among young adult women. Again, that cancer is melanoma. Also noteworthy, "Women aged 39 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer except breast cancer". 

Can I stress that we need to be in this together?

It took breast cancer time to climb the mountain of recognition and it has climbed it well.  My hat is off to them and I wish it wasn't. This isn't some sort of "race to the top," or competition, and no one, with any kind of cancer wants to have to think in terms of their numbers growing.

We, in the melanoma community, look at Pink and wring our hands and wonder how we can get a slice of the pie. It took them time and there was a strategy, which is spelled out above in that abstract.

We can learn from them. And we are. We've got an active and growing grassroots movement. Stand Up 2 Cancer has a Melanoma Dream Team. MD Anderson has a Melanoma Moon Shot. HBO has a show, The Big C, whose main character has melanoma. A few celebrities are starting to make melanoma PSAs. Former NFL coach, Bill Cowher, has started advocating about melanoma since his wife died from it. There are others. We've begun attacking melanoma through anti-tanning bed legislation around the world. Stories are getting told and faces are being seen.

One day, Black WILL be formally recognized as the new pink. I know what that means. It's not all good because it means more people really will be intimately acquainted with the beast. But it will also mean we're a household word and maybe people will start supporting research more and start being more proactive when it comes to taking care of the skin they're in and learn that melanoma is much, much more than "just skin cancer" and you can't cut it out and be done with it.

One day all cancer advocacy will be history because, one day, all cancer will be history. At least that's the stated objective and the plan. It is the point of many, many prayers.

Until that day, we need breast cancer awareness for women AND men, we need research dollars going their way, and we need to support their efforts and learn from them.

We also need to not focus solely on breast cancer at the expense of all other cancers. ALL cancers matter to people and ALL cancers affect us all. ALL cancers have the potential to kill and devastate families. ALL cancers have their statistics and those stats are real people.

So, honor breast cancer awareness month and check your breasts. Get suspicious masses checked out. Keep up that practice when October is over.

But do the same for the entire surface of your body, too. And stay aware of inner changes.

Cancer doesn't honor any month; it could care less about YOU, and we ALL need to support any effort we can to wipe it out and raise awareness. Perhaps the biggest message we need to get through to people is: can happen to YOU!

Catch it while it's treatable and you stand a fighting chance. Leave it alone and it will happily grow and possibly kill you.

An ignored cancer is a happy, thriving cancer.

Let's rename it "Can'tcer" and wipe it out.

We'll all be grateful when that glorious day gets here!

Do YOUR part!