Breast cancer awareness is an effort to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of breast cancer through education on symptoms and treatment. Supporters hope that greater knowledge will lead to earlier detection of breast cancer, which is associated with higher long-term survival rates, and that money raised for breast cancer will produce a reliable, permanent cure.
Breast cancer advocacy and awareness efforts are a type of health advocacy. Breast cancer advocates raise funds and lobby for better care, more knowledge, and more patient empowerment. They may conduct educational campaigns or provide free or low-cost services. Breast cancer culture, sometimes called pink ribbon culture, is the cultural outgrowth of breast cancer advocacy, the social movement that supports it, and the larger women's health movement.
The pink ribbon is the most prominent symbol of breast cancer awareness, and in many countries the month of October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Some national breast cancer organizations receive substantial financial support from corporate sponsorships (King 2006, p. 2).
The goal of breast cancer awareness campaigns is to raise the public's "brand awareness" for breast cancer, its detection, its treatment, and the need for a reliable, permanent cure. Increased awareness has increased the number of women receiving mammograms, the number of breast cancers detected, and the number of women receiving biopsies (Sulik 2010, pp. 157–210). Overall, as a result of awareness, breast cancers are being detected at an earlier, more treatable stage. Awareness efforts have successfully utilized marketing approaches to reduce the stigma associated with the disease.
Generally speaking, breast cancer awareness campaigns have been highly effective in getting attention for the disease. Breast cancer receives significantly more media coverage than other prevalent cancers, such as prostate cancer (Arnst 2007).
Breast cancer as a brand
A pink ribbon, an international symbol of breast cancer awareness.
Breast cancer advocacy uses the pink ribbon and the color pink as a concept brand to raise money and increase screening. The breast cancer brand is strong: people who support the "pink brand" are members of the socially aware niche market, who are in favor of improved lives for women, believe in positive thinking, trust biomedical science to be able to solve any problem if given enough money, and prefer curative treatments to prevention (Sulik 2010, p. 22; King 2006, p. 38).
The brand ties together fear of cancer, hope for early identification and successful treatment, and the moral goodness of women with breast cancer and anyone who visibly identifies themselves with breast cancer patients. This brand permits and even encourages people to substitute conscientious consumption and individual symbolic actions, like buying or wearing a pink ribbon, for concrete, practical results, such as collective political action aimed at discovering non-genetic causes of breast cancer (Sulik 2010, pp. 133–146).
The establishment of the brand and the entrenchment of the breast cancer movement has been uniquely successful, because no countermovement opposes the breast cancer movement or believes that breast cancer is desirable (King 2006, p. 111).
Main article: Pink ribbon
A pink ribbon is a symbol of breast cancer awareness. It may be worn to honor those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or to identify products that a manufacturer would like to sell to consumers that are interested in breast cancer. Pink ribbons are sometimes sold as fundraisers, much like poppies on Remembrance Day.
The pink ribbon is associated with individual generosity, faith in scientific progress, and an optimistic "can-do" attitude. It encourages individuals to focus on the emotionally appealing ultimate vision of a cure for breast cancer, rather than the reality that there is no certain cure for breast cancer, and no guarantee there will ever be such a cure (Sulik 2010, pp. 359–361). The practice of blindly wearing or displaying a pink ribbon without making other, more concrete efforts to cure breast cancer has been described as a kind of slacktivism due to its lack of real effects (Landman 2008), and has been compared to equally simple yet ineffective "awareness" practices like the drive for women to post the colors of their bras on Facebook (Borrelli 2010) Critics say that the feel-good nature of pink ribbons and "pink consumption" distracts society from the lack of progress in curing breast cancer (Sulik 2010, pp. 365–366) It is also criticized for reinforcing gender stereotypes and objectifying women and their breasts (Sulik 2010, pp. 372–374)