KevinMD has had some great guest posts recently including one by Kenneth Lin (http://commonsensemd.blogspot.com/) on the need (or not) for cancer awareness. Dr. Lin references the recent Facebook campaign that had women posting their bra color to raise breast cancer awareness – which had me wondering whether anyone is really not “aware” of breast cancer (Dr. Lin similarly asks if we really need more awareness). The need for “awareness” raising is the same argument Susan G. Komen for the Cure and KFC used to justify their current Buckets for the Cure campaign since actual sales of the gigantic fried chicken buckets weren’t directly linked to fundraising. I actually think fundraising for cancer research is an important agenda item—foundations like the American Cancer Society, Komen, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and Livestrong have contributed large sums of money to cancer research.
ACS funds some critical cancer prevention research through their Cancer Prevention Studies internally and is a large provider of external research funds as well. Similarly, Livestrong provides research dollars to cancer survivorship research and has played a key role in involving the community in cancer research. The dollars these organizations raise and direct to cancer research are really important. Organizations like this also use monies raised to provide important cancer education and advocacy services which wouldn’t be possible without the funds raised through sales of yellow rubber wrist bands or through events like Relay for Life. Which is why I find the “awareness” raising efforts so frustrating – they shouldn’t be about raising awareness, they should make it clear that the need is for support – for research, for education, for advocacy, for treatment when the patient can’t afford it and similar important endeavors. Creating opportunities for individuals who can’t afford financial contributions is also important – and I applaud efforts like that of the Love/Avon Army of Women to provide opportunities for women without breast cancer to be involved in research that will help advance our understanding of the causes of breast cancer. Individuals who want to do *something* about breast cancer (or any cancer) should be directed to sign up for efforts like this rather than posting their bra color on Facebook.