Mitchell: Is breast cancer’s pink power fading?
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There are signs that many of us have become weary of pink.
For one, donations to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity quickly dropped off last year after its short-lived decision to end grants to Planned Parenthood.
And after being the primary women’s advocacy issue in October since 1991, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month now shares the stage with another important woman’s issue: domestic violence.
Women’sHealthMag.com is so convinced that breast cancer survivors are suffering from “pinkitis” that the online publication reprinted a 2014 article titled “The Problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month” to coincide with this year’s observance.
The thought-provoking article raised questions about just how much good the pink ribbon movement is actually doing for those diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Initially, the argument was the pink ribbon will help bring awareness to breast cancer,” Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, told Women’sHealthMag.com.
“Here we are, 20-some years after 1991 . . . and 40,000 women continue to die each and every year,” Jaggar said. “We have not seen the improvements in the breast-cancer field that we would have liked to seen.”
The statistics are indeed dismal. About one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lives, according to the American Cancer Society.
The situation is worse for black women. While white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than black women, black women are more likely to die of breast cancer.
The racial gap in breast cancer mortality exists in major U.S. cities, according to a 2014 study by Chicago’s Sinai Urban Health Institute and the Avon Foundation for Women.
“It’s undeniable that this is systemic racism,” Dr. Steve Whitman told The New York Times.
Whitman was director of Sinai Urban Health Institute at the time of death in 2014.
“I don’t mean that a bad person is at the door personally keeping women out, but the system is arranged in such a way that it’s allowing white women access to the important gains we’ve made since 1990 in terms of breast health, and black women have not been able to gain access to these advances,” Whitman said.
Case in point: Last weekend, Dr. Susan Hong of the University of Chicago Breast Cancer Survivorship Program told an audience, primarily African-American women, that once you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you should always get a “diagnostic” mammogram rather than a “screening” mammogram.
Most of us in the crowd didn’t know there was a difference.
Fashion designer Barbara Bates, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, has raised more than $500,000 since then to educate women about the importance of breast cancer screenings.
“There are still African-American and Latin women that don’t believe fat meat is greasy even though there is so much awareness,” Bates told me.
“When we are out here working, we find it so hard to take care of ourselves. We can do the eyelashes and whatnot, but we find it hard getting to the doctor.”
Yes, October is awash with pink. It’s also awash with information. That’s a good thing.
For too many women, pink is still a spotlight that forces them to pay attention to their breasts.