Pink is my least favorite color: The notable color marking breast cancer awareness comes with a reminder of the fight

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Yes, you read that headline correctly. I am a breast surgical oncologist and I don’t particularly like pink. Every October I am reminded why some breast cancer survivors don’t like pink either. 

Pink is a constant reminder of the fight: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone suppression. And those are just the medical treatments. Not to mention the emotional roller coaster, countless appointments, medical bills, time away from family, body image struggles, battles with intimacy, etc. I could go on and on. 

Dr. Laura Hafertepen

Just when you think you’re making progress and moving on…BOOM, there are the pink ribbons everywhere. It can be hard to get away and move on with life. Breast cancer awareness month can be a lot to handle for our patients. 

Don’t get me wrong, breast cancer awareness is an important fight. The sudden influx of pink ribbons on billboards, professional sports jerseys, social media posts, television advertisements, etc. helps promote surveillance and early detection. In fact, it is a very effective way to get the word out. Screening mammograms increase substantially during the month of October.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with 1 in 8 women in the United States diagnosed during their lifetime. That’s a huge number. In 2021, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 330,840 women diagnosed and 43,600 will die. These are our family members, friends, and coworkers, those that we love and respect. 

Thankfully, most breast cancer caught early (localized to the breast) has a five-year survival rate of 99%. In cases of regional disease (lymph node involvement), survival decreases to 86%. If there is distant metastatic disease (spread to another organ), the survival is 28% at five years. Regardless of stage at presentation, there are a variety of treatment options. These numbers illustrate how important early detection and awareness are to good outcomes. (statistics credit to American Cancer Society)

This October, I urge everyone to take a minute to think a bit differently about pink. Not everyone sees a pink ribbon the same way. There are 11 other months every year when my patients, my colleagues, and I are always fighting. 

Mammograms save lives. Please get yours done. And, it doesn’t have to be in October. Find the time and take care of yourself. 

Dr. Laura Hafertepen is a breast surgical oncologist affiliated with the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at The Medical Center of Aurora, Swedish Medical Center and HealthONE.

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Soraya Felix
6 days ago

I think breast cancer awareness is very important, I just don’t support the pink industry, the cancer industry. The pink wash! Every October begins the media blitz known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). There are a lot of pink ribbons, and the message you keep hearing is, “Get your mammogram!” No mention is made in official NBCAM materials about the need to find the causes of cancer so that we can prevent it. Not surprisingly, NBCAM was originally created by a pharmaceutical company – now called AstraZeneca – which, in addition to making drugs to treat breast cancer, profited from the sale of a herbicide known to cause cancer. To draw attention to this story and the need to find true cancer prevention, activists called for the month of October and renamed it National Breast Cancer Industry Month. Throughout the month, several campaigns are conducted to educate the public about the corporate connections to cancer and the need to redirect attention to what needs to be done to stop cancer before it starts and become more aware of determinant factors on recurrence. We need to find less toxic drugs. We need to learn to be kinder with breast cancer patients and survivors.