Patients With Cancer, Survivors and Caregivers Point Out the Flaws With ‘Pinktober’

CURE® surveyed its audience to learn more about what they think about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, sometimes known as “Pinktober”. Here’s what they had to say.

Every year in October, many countries around the world "go pink" to spread awareness for breast cancer.

However, for some people in the cancer community, this practice can bring mixed feelings to people in the cancer community.

Some patients see Breast Cancer Awareness Month (also known as “Pinktober”) as an invaluable opportunity for education and advocacy. Yet, others in the breast cancer community, such as men living with breast cancer and people living with metastatic breast cancer, may feel left out. People with other types of cancer also point out that Pinktober is emblematic of breast cancer getting more attention than other types of cancer.

People also highlight the issues with pinkwashing, which is the practice of companies using Breast Cancer Awareness Month to promote their products without making meaningful strides to support the breast cancer community.

To learn more about patients’ thoughts on Pinktober and pinkwashing, CURE® surveyed its audience on social media.

In our weekly #CureConnect question, we asked, “What are your thoughts on #Pinktober and #Pinkwashing? Do you think they bring more harm or more good?”

Missed Educational Opportunities

“I think if (Pinktober) was used to spread awareness about the different types of breast cancer, how they are harder to treat when caught later and why; if actual information was spread instead of just making stuff pink and using cute euphemisms for breasts it could be very beneficial.” - Gina Mancini Horan, a patient with stage 4 lung cancer and CURE® contributor.

“Before 2019, I only saw the positives in Pinktober. Now though, knowing how many women like my girl who are not eligible for screening and are first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer has shifted my thinking about Pinktober. Awareness is great. A cure would be greater. Because that’s her next potential step down the road.” - Debbie Legault, a caregiver for her daughter who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 and CURE® contributor.

Pinkwashing Should Benefit Patients, Not Profits

“It’s deplorable when people, businesses and organizations use Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a marketing scheme that provides 0% to benefit patients directly or to fund research but does increase profits and executives’ salaries. Pinktober campaigns exclude those with metastatic breast cancer and male breast cancer survivors. We’re all aware, let’s take action. Send money to research and patients and help decrease financial toxicity.” - Janice Cowden, a woman living with metastatic breast cancer.

“(Pinktober is) unhelpful and hurtful to the breast cancer community. (It) uses breast cancer as a marketing tool. Donate to places like Metavivor that are doing great things. Or donate directly to a breast cancer patient!”- Chelsey Gomez, a two-time Hodgkin lymphoma survivor and CURE® contributor.

“I don't think it does any harm, but I find companies that use pink packaging without donating (or donating only a small amount) to be very dishonest and I usually avoid purchasing them. They are taking advantage of people's pain to make a profit.”- Tina Korsmoe, a breast cancer survivor.

“When funding doesn't actually support the cause, I take issue (breast cancer or otherwise). I personally don't like it because it puts a cutesy spin on a horrific disease. Plus, awareness isn't helpful if insurance companies deny requests for screening” - Jason Manuge, a patient with stage 3 colon cancer.

“I'm not interested in buying pink. They should be raising money with the awareness and giving that money to research, not for profit.” - Ginger White, a patient with breast cancer.

“Straight up profiting from a cancer that kills 117 men and women a day is gross. We aren’t a marketing tool. We are people who desperately need a cure. And if you’re going to use us, the least you can do is donate the money somewhere that will help us.” - Kate Crawford, a woman living with metastatic breast cancer.

“Using a horrible illness to make a profit is wrong, no matter the cause. I’m all for people wearing and expressing themselves however they want. But corporations shouldn’t profit from it. As a breast cancer survivor, it hurts doubly hard.” - Rachel B. Mlis, a triple-negative breast cancer survivor.

“(I saw) a car dealership that was covered with pink ribbons and thought about its impact. Will the passerby remember it, or has it become another annual trend? Does the company contribute to fundraisers or research efforts or offer informational resources?” - Dawn Aldrich, a cancer advocate.

Not Much Awareness on Other Cancers

“I think because they were first to do this, they get a lot more play, however, I do think it has helped raise awareness for all cancers, and I do believe the efforts have raised funds that have helped research over the past two decades. I think we can all do better to highlight each kind of cancer.”- Angelle Albright, a breast cancer survivor.

“Breast cancer does get a good amount of awareness and for good reason! However, it seems there is not much awareness of (brain) cancer or many others.”- Christine Nesbitt, a woman who has a daughter with brain cancer.

“I've always hated Pinktober. While September is designated as gynecologic cancer awareness month, it doesn't get anywhere the attention breast cancer does, not to mention the lack of funding and research dollars.”- Roberta Codemo, an endometrial cancer survivor.

“I feel you would have to be dumb not to be aware of breast cancer by now. Sick of the commercialization of it and the lack of awareness for all other cancers.” - Ronda Bowen, an ovarian cancer survivor.

“I am disgusted that breast cancer gets so much media hype when there are so many other types of cancer out there. I live with stage 4 kidney cancer and my husband has ALS. (Neither) of these diseases get the same amount of hype.”- Terri Keeney Long, a woman living with stage 4 renal cell carcinoma.

“It feels like a slap in the face to childhood cancer families who can’t even get recognition for the number one killer of children and receive 4% of federal funding.”- Alexandra Dicks, a mother of a child with B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia.

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