Seeing the success of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so many other diseases are using the word “awareness” to bring attention to “their cause disease”. But the word is overused and has lost meaning. My knee-jerk, smart ass response these days is, ”I can’t get any more aware, thank you”. In articles and online discussions I often see the comment when the NFL is wearing pink, or when you can buy pink kitchen appliances, or when you see (name random thing) pink, we’ve reached our awareness saturation point (in terms of breast cancer). I’m inclined to agree, especially since when the comment comes from someone with whom agree on the point of being sick of all things pink.
But maybe this view is wrong. Awareness may be at saturation point in the target audience for breast cancer cause marketing, which is middle class white women with the money to spend on any product with a little pink slathered on is. Are poor and non-white women being reached? I know that special education and outreach programs exist to remedy this, but I cannot see results beneath all the pink (and white). Unless the target audience can see themselves getting cancer, they will never really be “aware”. Where is the pinkification of products preferred by African-American women, by Latina women, or affordable to the poor?
Which leads to another, larger point—I was “aware” of the pinkness and assorted hoopla each October prior to my own diagnoses, but as someone under 40, I didn’t really see myself as the target…I did not see myself getting cancer. I was aware I could get it, aware of my risk factors, etc. I’m sure some would point out to me that awareness led me to get a mammogram that caught my cancer and saved my life, except in my case, that is not true (see my about page).
So I’m aware, you’re aware, she’s aware, he’s aware. Big whoop. What is being done about it? I modestly propose a change of focus and title for all these disease campaigns. Cancer is too complex for a cure, I get it, I read The Emperor of All Maladies. How about something like stop X cancer from killing people? Or better yet, dare I ask…Prevent ALL Cancer?