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The Politics of Disease
January 8, 2010 11:41 AM   Subscribe

In the name of awareness (via)

Marketing Breast Cancer in America

Review of The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer

Related: Initiating or Avoiding Activism: Red Ribbons, Pink Triangles, and Public Argument about AIDS

Other needs: obstetric fistula, HIV/AIDS, and, umm... water.

Is the activism model the best way to allocate research funds and health care resources?
posted by anotherpanacea (81 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've seen this meme going around on Facebook, and it makes me want to puke my guts out. Bra colors have no relation whatsoever to cancer awareness. If you want to raise cancer awareness, why not post a link to donate to cancer research?
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Didn't we just have a post on this that was deleted?
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I brought this up on my personal Facebook page, and got royally flamed for it, but is awareness really an issue? I mean, can someone really say with a straight face that someone saw those random "colors" updates, and said "holy crap, you can get CANCER there, and I should go check for it right now?!"

Breast cancer is a major problem, both medically and societally, but awareness just doesn't seem like part of that problem.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, I see, you linked to it in the via. Never mind.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:54 AM on January 8, 2010


You get WHAT in the WHAT? When did THAT start?!?!?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:59 AM on January 8, 2010


I posted that article to my FB page after I saw it in the other thread. Unfortunately, I think the automatic synopsis (the first few lines of the post) make it seem pro-meme.
posted by brundlefly at 12:08 PM on January 8, 2010


I strongly suspect that the relative "awareness" of diseases is completely out of proportion with their actual seriousness and incidence. How much worse is breast cancer than prostate cancer, for example? Yet the only public prostate cancer message I've seen was that amazing anti-milk campaign from PETA.

Public campaigns for diseases largely reflect politics and the extent to which mentioning particular diseases makes one appear caring.
posted by grobstein at 12:12 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see the silly bra color meme on facebook as only ostensibly about breast cancer awareness.

What it really IS is female bonding. As is much of what is done re "breast cancer awareness."

Yeah, it's weird, but whatever.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:17 PM on January 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


"This email is not about raising awareness of breast cancer. It's about using a disease that has a devasting impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people as a spurious justification for discussing saucy undies. It's about women trying to show that they're uninhibited and up for a laugh by inviting their friends to speculate about them in their underwear rather than to think about them as sentient, intelligent human beings. It's about women objectifying themselves. And for anyone who believes that the updates are really only for us gals I'd invite you to compare the number of updates saying 'red satin w little bows' with the number saying 'grey cotton (orig. white), straps frayed, bought Bhs 2001'." link
posted by naju at 12:20 PM on January 8, 2010 [13 favorites]


Yeah, this is stupid. If someone mentioned breast cancer and the first thing that enters your head is a nice set of tits, it pretty much says how much you really care about the issue.

Breast cancer awareness isn't about sexualizing breasts. It's about not getting cancer. I don't think there's a debate over which one of those envelopes smirkingly asking all the women on Facebook to talk about their underwear.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:29 PM on January 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you want to prove me wrong, then next week, promote prostate cancer awareness by asking everyone to post vivid descriptions of their anuses.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:32 PM on January 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


I do that all year.
posted by mazola at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


promote prostate cancer awareness by asking everyone to post vivid descriptions of their anuses

The room is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.
posted by splice at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


This is pop disease awareness in the same vein as livestrong. Only worse, because you're not even donating five bucks.
posted by jckll at 12:44 PM on January 8, 2010


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kdCsW058R0
posted by sourwookie at 12:46 PM on January 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought it was the race you wanted to hook up with most but hadn't yet. I kept seeing "Black" and kept clicking "Like." I guess I won't be seeing any action out of this.

"I don't care if your bra's tan, or red, or Chinese." (Chinese is what I put)
posted by Eideteker at 12:46 PM on January 8, 2010


Fuck breast cancer. Fuck it right in the... well... breasts.
posted by Eideteker at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2010


oops! I meant to let you know the above link is from Penn & Teller. The occasional F-bomb is dropped.
posted by sourwookie at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2010


This is a complex topic. In re breast cancer, my sense is that it's a pretty well-funded (relatively) disease about which there is high social awareness. I'd have to read more, and more of the links, to say whether there was a time when it was ignored despite its recognition as a serious public health threat. Certainly HIV/AIDS was not treated seriously politically before ACT UP really got rowdy, and you can see again (if you work in HIV) that the quality of care is declining as fewer people with good social capital are scared they will die from the disease.

On the other hand, witness the recent fracases with vaccines and even mammograms for places where activism flies in the face of science, and arguably hurts public health.

Then there is a more subtle problem that I'm not entirely sure how to frame, but which you also see in the environmental movement, where these very large problems that can be easily associated with industrial economies, are made into matters for personal activism (recycle, recycle, recycle) rather than social policy. I don't think the activism for disease is always, or predominantly, aimed at policy, I think it's often mostly about suggesting that personal responsibility is the most important thing. I don't think that's true.
posted by OmieWise at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love having my awareness raised. It's just like taking responsibility for things, except I don't actually need to do anything.
posted by mhoye at 12:48 PM on January 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think somebody at the Washington Post reads Metafilter.
posted by peeedro at 12:49 PM on January 8, 2010


Is this "breast cancer" something I'd need a TV to understand?
posted by milnak at 12:57 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay. Forgive me a little bit as this is slightly personal and I'm going to do something I try to refrain from doing on mefi and that is swear a bunch.

Everybody here should really shut the fuck up about trivializing "awareness." Because constant awareness is actually the name of the cancer game. That's how diseases get actually dealt with and get funding, by being a constant part of the conversation. Seriously. The conversation went dark when people get sick off "AIDS awareness" and suddenly the numbers shoot back up. This happens with virtually every disease. When various cancers go out of the "awareness" (for example when it's not their designated donation month) the amount of late diagnosis go up because it's not part of the momentary patient mindset. And this everything. Contrary to popular belief most medical diagnosis' come from the vigilance of the patient not the doctor. So I'm sorry you're sick of hearing about breast cancer.

I've seen this meme going around on Facebook, and it makes me want to puke my guts out. Bra colors have no relation whatsoever to cancer awareness. If you want to raise cancer awareness, why not post a link to donate to cancer research?
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:53 AM on January 8 [+] [!]


Why not post a link or donate? Because posting a link actually gets less attention. To keep up the awareness you need to be strange. That's the actual point of this exercise and sadly even in your negative reaction, the goal has been achieved. You paid more attention to an admittedly silly idea to promote breast cancer awareness then if a commercial just aired asking you to donate. It's true.

Why is awareness so valuable?

Because "awareness" and in particular, a similarly lame and silly stunt like this caused my girlfriend to start doing some basic research. And that's when she found out about genetic testing for women in her particular genetic scenario. And that's how she found out about the brca 1 gene. And then a similarly lame promotional stunt helped her find an article that reference a new screening and test program. And that's what set her upon a path that changed her life. And has just saved her life at the fucking age of 26.

All because of "awareness."

Are you all such miserable bastards that you're going "puke your guts out" because some woman finds a silly, lame way to deal with a disease that's ravaged her life and makes her feel more positive?

Cause if so you need to figure out a way to be more adjusted. Seriously.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:01 PM on January 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


I've been trying to sell colored butt plugs for male prostate awareness. Sales are... well, down.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:03 PM on January 8, 2010


Sorry that was angry. But still. "Pop disease awareness" does WAAYYYYYYYYYYY more than you think it does.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:06 PM on January 8, 2010


I've been trying to sell colored butt plugs for male prostate awareness. Sales are... well, down.

I keep telling you. once I had bought 13, I had enough!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:07 PM on January 8, 2010


Is the activism model the best way to allocate research funds and health care resources?

Probably not. It's one way of many many ways that research funds and health care resources get allocated. Every time someone posts a link to something about spaying and neutering pets, someone else says that solving human malnutrition is more important. Good thing there are lots of different people in the world who can fund different things in different ways.

Pink ribbons make me angry because my mom has breast cancer [which means I have an increased liklihood for it] though it's not what's going to kill her [that would be the lung cancer] and I don't actually, personally, need my awareness raised. That said, people do what they do and it seems asinine to crap on someone else's attempts to help unless what you're really saying is that this sort of help is actually making this problem, or other problems, worse. I have no idea if that's what you're saying because I can't hear through all the BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ hollering.

Lacking Subtlety makes my point better than I can.
posted by jessamyn at 1:11 PM on January 8, 2010


Did "some woman find[s] a silly, lame way to deal with a disease that's ravaged her life and makes her feel more positive", though? Everything I've read about the FB meme says it isn't known who started it. And if you read the first article linked above, the author talks about how the game made her feel sad and inadequate. She says:

This was ostensibly an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer — but one in which breast cancer survivors themselves could not participate, and were reminded (as if we needed a reminder) that we didn’t need bras anymore, that most basic undergarment of women everywhere, that symbol of sexuality, for the simple reason that we had already sacrificed our breasts in a hail mary attempt to keep the rest of our bodies from dying of cancer.

When I complained about it in my FB status (saying it was less about cancer awareness and more about junior high school level flirting/vying for boys' attention) several people commented that they didn't even know it had anything to do with cancer. They just thought it was a fun silly girls-only thing.

Not scoring so high even on awareness, then.
posted by misskaz at 1:13 PM on January 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is stupid. If someone mentioned breast cancer and the first thing that enters your head is a nice set of tits, it pretty much says how much you really care about the issue.

Breast cancer awareness isn't about sexualizing breasts. It's about not getting cancer. I don't think there's a debate over which one of those envelopes smirkingly asking all the women on Facebook to talk about their underwear.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:29 PM on January 8 [+] [!]


And last point is that in the wake of breast cancer, sometimes it's not about sexualizing breasts for others, but re-sexualizing yourself. A double mastectomy is traumatic to your sexual identity/libido/everything along those lines... So I think this comment sort of misses the point.

Mostly my point is this: most of the revulsion to these silly promotions strikes me as profoundly unkind and completely self-involved.

That is all.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:15 PM on January 8, 2010


The conversation went dark when people get sick off "AIDS awareness" and suddenly the numbers shoot back up. This happens with virtually every disease. When various cancers go out of the "awareness" (for example when it's not their designated donation month) the amount of late diagnosis go up because it's not part of the momentary patient mindset.

Can you cite any statistics to back up those claims?
posted by jckll at 1:16 PM on January 8, 2010


Are you all such miserable bastards that you're going "puke your guts out" because some woman finds a silly, lame way to deal with a disease that's ravaged her life and makes her feel more positive?

Thanks for calling me a miserable bastard. I appreciate that.

As for finding a way for a cancer survivor to deal with the disease, refer to the blog post in which the cancer survivor describes in detail why she feels this meme left her out and made her feel worse about herself.

I dislike this meme because it is sexist. It is not about the cancer survivors or awareness. Most people don't even seem to know that it is even ABOUT cancer. Instead, it encourages people to contemplate women's boobs, quite apart from the women behind the boobs.
posted by Lobster Garden at 1:20 PM on January 8, 2010


Mostly my point is this: most of the revulsion to these silly promotions strikes me as profoundly unkind and completely self-involved.

Yeah, you're right. Reducing women to nothing but their breasts is much more compassionate.
posted by Lobster Garden at 1:23 PM on January 8, 2010


Oh and for the whole breast cancer getting-all-the-attenion vs prostate cancer issue...

Prostate cancer research gets a stunning amount of federal funding, because it is a disease that has affected many congressman and they rallied the troops (ie, their colleagues) accordingly to vote for funding.

Breast cancer, while affecting a much greater percentage of the population, gets far less federal funding and is therefore depended on public funding/grassroots/awareness... which, yes, they are exceptionally good at... for a reason: they need to be.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:23 PM on January 8, 2010


That said, people do what they do and it seems asinine to crap on someone else's attempts to help unless what you're really saying is that this sort of help is actually making this problem, or other problems, worse. I have no idea if that's what you're saying because I can't hear through all the BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ hollering.

I'm not sure if you're asking me, specifically, what I'm saying, but you responded to the question at the end of my post so I'll answer. My take on these things is that it's bad to live in a society where health care and research funds are allocated politically. I think, specifically, that breast cancer was an important topic of research and activism in the 90s as a space of women's solidarity, but that since then the continued over-emphasis on this disease is a kind of a spandrel: the product of charitable organizations with too much money to go away or redirect their efforts to new causes.

The biggest problem with the 'awareness' model of disease politics is that there's only so much awareness to go around. I'm pretty indifferent to complaints about prostate cancer, given the survival rates, but there are many more important WOMEN'S health issues that really ought to occupy our time. And yes, I do think that the reason breast cancer gets more attention than obstetric fistulas has to do with the marketability of breasts v. urine leakage, despite the fact that a fistula repair costs $300 and breast reconstructions run anywhere from $3,000-$30,000 and the coverage for reconstruction post-mastectomy is mandated by law. This isn't really a "what about men" issue: it's squarely within the question: "what about the women?"
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:29 PM on January 8, 2010


I joined in. I altered the message sent and spent time weeding through all of my fb friends to send it to the ladies. I changed awareness to, well, this is how it read: Some fun is going on...just write the color of your bra in your status. Just color nothing else. Send this to your girlfriends and facebook friends that are grrrls. This is our unification for breast cancer research. It will be fun to see how long it takes before the everyone will wonder why all the girls have colors as their status.

It was fun. It was unification. And men were let in on it, too, though I had at least one male friend that was very snide in his comments.

My favorite moment was from men who caught on (orange leotard with the nipples cut out) and from women who do not wear bras (bare, I don't wear any, etc.).

All in all, I am with Lacking Subtlety. Can breast cancer research get more funding, already?
posted by psylosyren at 1:29 PM on January 8, 2010


Thanks for calling me a miserable bastard. I appreciate that....

Mostly my point is this: most of the revulsion to these silly promotions strikes me as profoundly unkind and completely self-involved.

Yeah, you're right. Reducing women to nothing but their breasts is much more compassionate.
posted by Lobster Garden at 1:23 PM on January 8 [+] [!]


I apologize for the vitriol. I just really don't think that's what the meme is doing and I was upset with the severity of the reactions and this is obviously personal. Again. Sorry.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:30 PM on January 8, 2010


It's not awareness if 95% of facebook users aren't aware what the fuck your status means. The only thing separating this flash meme from actual breast cancer awareness is the phrase breast cancer in the chain mail. If viral awareness techniques are as practical as they're supposed to be, this viral mailing should push awareness to the Moon:
BREAST CANCER

- spamguy
posted by spamguy at 1:30 PM on January 8, 2010


And last point is that in the wake of breast cancer, sometimes it's not about sexualizing breasts for others, but re-sexualizing yourself. A double mastectomy is traumatic to your sexual identity/libido/everything along those lines... So I think this comment sort of misses the point.

I think you're the only one missing the point here. Are you arguing that some people in this stupid meme might be "affirming themselves" by saying what their bra colors are? I don't think you are and I think that's because you know it's a strawman to try and counter the blatant point that this is a juvenile exercise that exploits a serious medical issue to say "boobies!" and run away giggling. It's a new meme that's encouraging young girls to talk about what sexy bras they're wearing so they can feel the most popular by getting the most "likes" from their schoolmates. It's people once again talking about "breasts" as if those are the things that are going to die of cancer and not the sentient humans that bear them. It's stupid, demeaning, and sexist. But I'm "profoundly unkind?" Spare me.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:34 PM on January 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry for the venom, but I'm totally convinced this was one girl's way of scoring her own meme at the expense of a very real disease. My core point: there's a right way to clue the world in about BC, and a wrong way.
posted by spamguy at 1:34 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This was just posted by one of my FB friends:

URGENT! Facebook VIRUS ALERT. An email recently went out to women asking them to post the color of their bra. This is a VIRUS. To fix it, you must REMOVE your bra, then go to Settings> Enable Webcam> Record Movie. Publish to page.You're welcome.
posted by Ratio at 1:35 PM on January 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Everything "Lacking Subtlety" said in the entire "To keep up the awareness you need to be strange." post. In spades.

Nice post; thanks a bunch for it.
posted by Mike D at 1:37 PM on January 8, 2010


And in keeping with the "be strange" spirit, I've also bumped Ratio's warning over to my FB status for a while.
posted by Mike D at 1:41 PM on January 8, 2010


I've had a number of FB friends linking me to this. Maybe it's just a women's bonding thing, but I suspect it's mostly that my friends know I'm a survivor and think I'll be interested. (Unlike the breast cancer survivor who had a double mastectomy and has no breasts, I'm a breast cancer survivor who had just a partial mastectomy and now have one and a half breasts. I can't find a bra that fits in any colour or pattern.)

I'm not interested in this FB meme and I put it in the same category as I do all the other breast cancer kitsch, from pink ribbon pins to pink vacuum cleaners. I got tired of it all long before my hair grew back.

However, I'm delighted that Lacking Subtlety's girl friend took concrete action as a result of an awareness campaign that I've personally written off. And if such a campaign had an effect on one person, it's probably affected more than one, and that's a Good Thing, even if it doesn't float my particular boat.

As for the argument that there's too much emphasis on breast cancer and not enough on x-disease, I don't think anything is likely to be gained for any disease if we engage in a "my suffering's worse than yours". If you think your particular cause isn't getting the response it deserves, take action on its behalf.
posted by angiep at 1:44 PM on January 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


OK Lacking Subtlety, I asked you nicely to cite your sources after your first post.
You didn't, and continued mouth-breathing with more figures and no data.
I know breast cancer is a sensitive subject to many (with good reason) but I don't think that should let us make arguments that are without factual basis. If you want to prove me wrong, please do, I'd be happy to read about it, but until you do, I'm going to call you out--you're full of shit. Let's try the wikipedia method:

Oh and for the whole breast cancer getting-all-the-attenion vs prostate cancer issue...

Prostate cancer research gets a stunning amount of federal fundinghow much?, because it is a disease that has affected many congressman and they rallied the troops (ie, their colleagues) accordingly to vote for fundingcitation needed.

Breast cancer, while affecting a much greater percentage of the populationcitation needed, gets far less federal fundingcitation needed and is therefore depended on public funding/grassroots/awareness... which, yes, they are exceptionally good at... for a reason: they need to be.


---

Now me:
This year 218,890 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. By comparison, 178,480 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. Not a huge difference, but a new report finds that for every prostate cancer drug on the market, there are seven used to treat breast cancer, and federal spending on breast cancer research outpaces prostate cancer spending by a ratio of nearly two to one.

Link
posted by jckll at 1:45 PM on January 8, 2010 [8 favorites]



Sorry for the venom, but I'm totally convinced this was one girl's way of scoring her own meme at the expense of a very real disease. My core point: there's a right way to clue the world in about BC, and a wrong way.
posted by spamguy at 1:34 PM on January 8 [+] [!]


I'm sorry for my venom as well. My core point is I don't really think there's a wrong way. And the certainly if there is, then I don't think it deserves the negative response it got at first here. That is all.

Apologies.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2010


[comment removed - not everyone clicks reload as fast as you do, please stop calling people names, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:54 PM on January 8, 2010


Lacking Subtlety: Prostate cancer research gets a stunning amount of federal funding, because it is a disease that has affected many congressman and they rallied the troops (ie, their colleagues) accordingly to vote for funding.

Breast cancer, while affecting a much greater percentage of the population, gets far less federal funding and is therefore depended on public funding/grassroots/awareness... which, yes, they are exceptionally good at... for a reason: they need to be.


That's peculiar, because the National Cancer Institute (which is the cancer branch of the US National Institute Of Health) has a website which contains figures which show that in 2009, prostate cancer research was funded at about $285.4million while breast cancer research was funded at about $572.6million. You can see the funding spread for many types of cancer research funding in section four of this page.

In fact, according to that chart, breast cancer research tops out the spending of EVERY type of research funded at the NCI, and has every year for at least 3 years.

Are there other statistics you would like to cite to back up your claims? As far as my minimal research shows, you're blowing smoke without any actual basis.
posted by hippybear at 1:58 PM on January 8, 2010



Now me:
This year 218,890 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. By comparison, 178,480 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. Not a huge difference, but a new report finds that for every prostate cancer drug on the market, there are seven used to treat breast cancer, and federal spending on breast cancer research outpaces prostate cancer spending by a ratio of nearly two to one.

Link
posted by jckll at 1:45 PM on January 8 [+] [!]


I was reiterating information I had heard through the gilda radner program at cedar sanai in los angeles. I have to run right now unfortunately but research forthcoming in about an hour.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:59 PM on January 8, 2010


I wonder if a better idea would have been to ask people to list the people they know that have dealt with breast cancer. Not with names, but by relationship. For example, for me, such a "mystery" post would be:

mother, 2 grandmothers, coworker, boss

It still has that "figure out the puzzle" component, but is about the people and not about underwear.
posted by misskaz at 2:04 PM on January 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Prostate cancer research gets a stunning amount of federal funding, because it is a disease that has affected many congressman and they rallied the troops (ie, their colleagues) accordingly to vote for funding.

It's been dealt with by someone else already who had numbers and stuff, but this is pretty much the opposite of true. Also, there'sa real problem with lung cancer, which kills a lot more people than breast or prostate cancer combined, but gets a tiny amount of federal funding.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:06 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't be such an asshole, jckll.

I don't blame him. These kinds of statements require citation. I, too, am under the impression that breast cancer funding dwarfs prostate cancer funding (private and public). If I'm wrong, I'd like to know. If not, then (LS) please stop making unsubstantiated statements.

Here's an interesting idea; there are more than two forms of cancer. It is interesting to compare breast cancer with prostate cancer, but since I'm not one of those misogynistic men's rights dudes, I'm also interested in cancers that can afflict both genders. Why does breast cancer receive such outsize attention? I am not trying to bring gender politics to cancer research; I can think of few topics less deserving of gender polarization. If breast cancer was previously receiving short shrift, and I would not be the least surprised if that were the case, then I give full credit to the movement for changing that. But it seems changed now, so can we pay attention to some of the less popular cancers now?

You know what would be really nice to see? A day where men raised money for breast cancer, and women raised money for prostate cancer.
posted by Edgewise at 2:07 PM on January 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's a really good idea, misskaz.
posted by brundlefly at 2:08 PM on January 8, 2010


I just wanted to say that this thread made me (finally) join Metafilter, pony up the $5, just so I could make a comment.

Of course by the time I had done all that somebody else had said it for me.
posted by diane47 at 2:08 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: by the time I had done all that somebody else had said it for me.
posted by brundlefly at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2010


I wonder if a better idea would have been to ask people to list the people they know that have dealt with breast cancer. Not with names, but by relationship. For example, for me, such a "mystery" post would be:

mother, 2 grandmothers, coworker, boss


I think that's well-intentioned and has the advantages you give, but on the other hand, it's inherent on a social network like Facebook that people could readily determine the identities of many people given by relationship (e.g., many people are Facebook friends with their relatives and even list them as such). So the list would have to be limited to people that are okay with being publicly identified as someone who is dealing with/has dealt with breast cancer, which might blunt its effectiveness somewhat.
posted by jedicus at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2010


Just came in to add a few more links:

1: American Cancer Society Facts & Figures 2009[pdf]:
Estimated new cases of Prostate Cancer in Men in 2008: 186,320 (25% of cancers in men)
Estimated new cases of Breast Cancer in Women in 2008: 182,460 (26% of cancers in women)

2: National Cancer Institute: Cancer Research Funding:
Prostate Cancer/Breast Cancer
2006: 293mm/584mm
2007: 296mm/572mm
2008: 285mm/572mm

---

And re another claim you made upthread:
The conversation went dark when people get sick off "AIDS awareness" and suddenly the numbers shoot back up.

CDC HIV/AIDS trends[pdf]

I'll leave it to you to point out where the numbers "shoot up"

On preview, I see I was beaten by brundlefly on the NCI link. Well done.
posted by jckll at 2:10 PM on January 8, 2010


You know what would be really nice to see? A day where men raised money for breast cancer, and women raised money for prostate cancer.

Men are called on a lot to be "aware" of breast cancer. Here in eastern WA, we even have a "tough enough to wear pink" night at the rodeo when all the butch cowboys are challenged to put on pink shirts in order to show awareness or solidarity or something having to do with breast cancer. I know it isn't just the rodeo that does that kind of thing, too. I think I've seen similar promotions at the local minor league baseball games, too.

I'm all for cancer research no matter what form it takes, but the scales are WAY tipped toward breast cancer, both with funding and with so-called awareness campaigns.
posted by hippybear at 2:12 PM on January 8, 2010


Do you mean hippybear, jckll?
posted by brundlefly at 2:15 PM on January 8, 2010


From 2002-2006, the median age at death for cancer of the breast was 68 years of age4. Approximately 0.0% died under age 20;
1.0% between 20 and 34; 6.2% between 35 and 44;
15.1% between 45 and 54;
20.3% between 55 and 64;
19.8% between 65 and 74;

22.8% between 75 and 84;
and 14.9% 85+ years of age

The age-adjusted death rate was 24.5 per 100,000 women per year. These rates are based on patients who died in 2002-2006 in the US.


From 2002-2006, the median age at death for cancer of the prostate was 80 years of age4. Approximately 0.0% died under age 20;
0.0% between 20 and 34;
0.1% between 35 and 44;
1.4% between 45 and 54;
7.2% between 55 and 64;
20.1% between 65 and 74;
40.9% between 75 and 84;
and 30.3% 85+ years of age


The age-adjusted death rate was 25.6 per 100,000 men per year. These rates are based on patients who died in 2002-2006 in the US.

emphases mine
----

I suspect that one of the reasons that breast cancer research gets more funding than prostate cancer research is because of the ages at which you're most likely to die from them. From what I've read, many forms of prostate cancer are also very slow-growing - you're more likely to die of old age before the cancer kills you.

That said, I hatehatehate "my disease is worse than your disease."
posted by rtha at 2:17 PM on January 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yes, yes, I did...I cited the wrong person. Karma.
posted by jckll at 2:17 PM on January 8, 2010


Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickeled and Dimed among others, and breast cancer survivor) has a cutting, insightful, hilarious, and efficient evisceration of the Cult of Awareness in her essay, Welcome to Cancerland.
posted by ErikaB at 2:18 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good point, jedicus. It didn't cross my mind because none of the people listed in my case are on facebook, but it's definitely something to keep in mind.
posted by misskaz at 2:20 PM on January 8, 2010


Think Before You Pink
posted by serazin at 2:20 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


you didn't, and continued mouth-breathing with more figures and no data. [...] I'm going to call you out--you're full of shit.

Is it really necessary to be so rude to Lacking Subtlety? Calling a cancer survivor a 'mouth-breather' and 'full of shit' because she got some facts wrong just doesn't seem cool. She made it clear that this was a personal issue for her, whereas for you it just seems like point scoring. Please dial it back: the facts are welcome, but the vitriol not-so-much.

That said, I hatehatehate "my disease is worse than your disease."

If we're comparing quality-adjusted life years, the big gains are in research into safe drinking water. Poverty-related diseases kill 25,000 children under five a day.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:29 PM on January 8, 2010


I strongly suspect that the relative 'awareness' of diseases is completely out of proportion with their actual seriousness and incidence.

Estimated new cases and deaths in 2009, from the American Cancer Society [PDF]:

Breast cancer (female): 192,370 new cases, 40,170 deaths.
Colon and Rectal cancer (Combined): 146,970 new cases, 49,920 deaths.
Lung cancer (Including Bronchus): 219,440 new cases, 159,390 deaths.
Prostate cancer: 192,280 new cases, 27,360 deaths.

What it really IS is female bonding. As is much of what is done re 'breast cancer awareness.'

Maybe not when the NFL wore pink cleats in October.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:34 PM on January 8, 2010


Is it really necessary to be so rude to Lacking Subtlety? Calling a cancer survivor a 'mouth-breather' and 'full of shit' because she got some facts wrong just doesn't seem cool. She made it clear that this was a personal issue for her, whereas for you it just seems like point scoring. Please dial it back: the facts are welcome, but the vitriol not-so-much.

"She" is a he according to his profile, and his post indicated that he is not a cancer survivor, but his girlfriend may have been, or at least had some genetic screening done. Not that that really matters.

He didn't "get some facts wrong;" two entire posts (well received and favorite'd posts, I might add) were based entirely on facts made up of whole cloth. I'm not calling someone out for fudging the numbers a little. EVERY statement of fact in the 2 posts I referenced was practically the OPPOSITE of the truth. In a discussion about the value of awareness campaigns, I think that calls for a little vitriol.
posted by jckll at 2:47 PM on January 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh and for the whole breast cancer getting-all-the-attenion vs prostate cancer issue...

Prostate cancer research gets a stunning amount of federal funding [...[ breast cancer, while affecting a much greater percentage of the population, gets far less federal funding and is therefore depended on public funding/grassroots/awareness...


This is totally, factually untrue. To wit:

Using these statistics from 2006:

Breast Cancer Deaths: (41,430) ---- N.C.I. funding per death: $13,452
Prostate Cancer Deaths (27,350) ---- N.C.I. funding per death: $11,298


And let's totally forget about lung cancer, which affects 4 times as many people as breast cancer -- from both genders -- and receives less than 15% of funding.

Not to mention that the PINK RIBBON industry and their 'awareness' and 'donation' scam (ironically now on some carcinogenic chemical products made by Dow) is totally, wholly unregulated and predominantly a marketing tool.
posted by mr. remy at 2:50 PM on January 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: by the time I had done all that somebo … dammit!

“Also, there'sa real problem with lung cancer, which kills a lot more people than breast or prostate cancer combined, but gets a tiny amount of federal funding.”
Yep.Y'know tho, some of the (nonexploitive) awareness stuff is good. I mean, you can go get a mammogram or a prostate check fairly easily and it's just one simple way to dodge a pretty serious health risk.
Some women, my mom among them, don't like going to the doctor because they're afraid of what the doctor might say or find, etc.
And a lot of men are pretty self-conscious when it comes to getting prostate checks. And it's hard to get some of them to go. Buddy of mine drinks all kind of coffee, eats cream cheese, brisket, etc. he's Jewish, eats traditional food, but doesn't keep kosher and that's, uh, not so healthy a diet. Up there with African-Americans.
Grunts when he pees (what - we use urinals). And I've asked him, hey man, when's the last time you got your prostate checked? Well, he doesn't want to go because he's got hemorrhoids and it would hurt.
I tend to treat my body like a race car. Lots of check ups. Pits. Regular overhauls. I'm a health actuarys wet dream. But many people are more conscientious about doing auto maintenance than they are about their health. And whatever cancer - general well being has been seriously deprioritized in the U.S. So hell any excuse to get on a bike or walk around and make time to go see a doctor (if, y'know, you've got insurance).
posted by Smedleyman at 2:56 PM on January 8, 2010


And let's totally forget about lung cancer, which affects 4 times as many people as breast cancer -- from both genders -- and receives less than 15% of funding.

Not to mention that the PINK RIBBON industry and their 'awareness' and 'donation' scam (ironically now on some carcinogenic chemical products made by Dow) is totally, wholly unregulated and predominantly a marketing tool.


Lung cancer and heart disease kill more women than breast cancer does. They don't get the same attention because they aren't sexy. This is why breast cancer awareness campaigns like "Save the Ta Tas" infuriate me so much. If they weren't sexist, I would be all for them (for example, misskaz has an excellent idea for an effective, sexism-free awareness campaign).
posted by Lobster Garden at 3:10 PM on January 8, 2010


I've come late to the thread, and I see that several others have already called out Lacking Subtlety for her statements, so I'll just add my two cents:

I'm probably going to die of cancer. Breast cancer took my mother and her mother. Cancers of different types took several other relatives on my mom's side--we joke that cancer doesn't just run in our family, it gallops. Through my family's activism I know several cancer survivors and their relatives.

That said:

From where I sit, awareness--in terms of making the American public aware of what it is, the dangers, and the steps to prevent it--of breast cancer has been achieved. It's now about marketing.

I've been Googling to try to find the study that I read about in the news last year, but I'm having no luck. The gist of it was that full marketing penetration for breast cancer awareness had been achieved in the US for a while now, that even the most marginally literate Americans now have a grasp of breast cancer. The lead researcher said that any additional money spent on awareness would in essence be a waste, and that persons wish to donate to cancer causes would want to consider the organization's goals before donating.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that breast cancer awareness has saved the lives of so many women. But in my view (and, I'm sure, others), consumerism has taken over. Companies slap pink ribbons on products to drive sales, and donate only a pittance of their profits. The donations don't always support efforts to actually stop the disease, either. For example, more women are dying of cancer not because the treatments aren't there, but because they can't afford them. And despite all of the money the numbers are still very high--according to Samantha King's 'Pink Ribbons, Inc.', a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer was one in 22 in the 1940s, but by 2004, it was one in seven.


I continue to support efforts to fight cancer. But I don't support breast cancer awareness causes anymore. I feel like we've been pumping large amounts of money into breast cancer research without asking hard questions about whether we're spending it in the right way.

I want cancer causes in general to be like AIDS causes, with a broad agenda the focuses not just on education and treatment but the social and economic conditions that cause and promote cancer. I want women to know that their #1 cancer threat is actually lung cancer, not breast cancer (and that their #1 overall health threat is heart disease).

In the end, we aren't getting a lot of bang for our buck with the current approach. We have to move past the idea that any money raised for cancer is good money. We have to ask is the money going to the right places. We have to make sure the charities we support have goals that have a measureable, sustained impact in the lives of women dealing with cancer. We have to remember that no charity is above reproach, and hold the Komen Foundation accountable when they get in bed with corporate interests that run counter to helping women with cancer. And above all, we have to remember that cancer is too serious a matter to be trivialized by corporate marketing departments.
posted by magstheaxe at 3:35 PM on January 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


Is it really necessary to be so rude to Lacking Subtlety? Calling a cancer survivor a 'mouth-breather' and 'full of shit' because she got some facts wrong just doesn't seem cool. She made it clear that this was a personal issue for her, whereas for you it just seems like point scoring. Please dial it back: the facts are welcome, but the vitriol not-so-much.

"She" is a he according to his profile, and his post indicated that he is not a cancer survivor, but his girlfriend may have been, or at least had some genetic screening done. Not that that really matters.

He didn't "get some facts wrong;" two entire posts (well received and favorite'd posts, I might add) were based entirely on facts made up of whole cloth. I'm not calling someone out for fudging the numbers a little. EVERY statement of fact in the 2 posts I referenced was practically the OPPOSITE of the truth. In a discussion about the value of awareness campaigns, I think that calls for a little vitriol.
posted by jckll at 2:47 PM on January 8 [1 favorite +] [!]


Okay... back. Work stuff.

And it was a case of one completely wrong post.

1. I am completely in the wrong concerning my statements on the funding/figures of breast cancer vs. prostate cancer. My information was not based on reading, but human interaction and none of whom was with completely qualified expert. It was from conversations with women dealing with breast cancer and a few nurses who did not refute them. The only doctor I had interacted with concerning the subject was complaining about a very specific recent scenario concerning the funding of her project. As such, I took statements of the women I spoke with at face value and made deductions about doctor's statements as corroborating them. I am actually rather upset about realizing this information to be false, and upset with those who have propagated this information onto myself. It was not made up wholesale as I have absolutely no inclination to do so. As I was writing them I considered grabbing figures to back them up (and in process of doing so would have completely realized my error). Once again. I do sincerely apologize as I can assure you it is never my attention (nor I hope anyone else's) to represent anything less than the truth in any statements I make on the blue. I do feel awful about this.

1a. The only thing I can hope is that this helps others realize how the complexity of the information can often lead to generalizations and hearsay, and thus seemingly "trustworthy" sources can be a problem. For example, my significant other has become a research fiend and is amazed by the conflicting information in how to go about her specific treatment. And at this point is she is more informed that her regular doctor and has to do discount their advice and refer directly to her specialist. But once again, I feel awful.

2. However concerning my statements on the brief resurgence of AIDS, this was not a factual misrepresentation. In that large scale graph that was posted you cannot see the small, gradual increase in hiv/aids diagnosis in from 1999-2002 (data here: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/reports/2002report/table1.htm) First off, I was surprised by those who have refuted this because I clearly remembered a clear national dialogue on the issue at the time (most of them semi-fear-mongering and sensationalist). That being said there was a clear, if small, rise in HIV/AIDS cases, specifically among young homosexual males who seemed bent on making the mistakes of the older generation (an acquaintance even made a film on the issue). Many of the reasons cited were basically things like "condom fatigue" but a surprising amount of people just didn't realize it was a still as pertinent an issue as it really was.

Information taken from the following sources:
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/reports/2002report/default.htm
http://www.avert.org/usa-statistics.htm
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20030803/ai_n14555759/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446461/
http://www.seattlepi.com/local/132645_aids28.html
http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/reprint/91/6/883.pdf

As for how much "awareness" campaigns had to do with the recent curbing of this brief resurgence I am still doing research on subject and to how much money was spent etc, so I will hopefully post on that in due time. Granted, the success of such things is hard to prove and it's the subject of this entire post anyway and I've made my feelings on the matter clear at this point so no point in beating a dead horse.

3. I think the reason some people were calling your statements out in terms of vitriol is because it had little to do with veracity, and more to do with the respective tones of our statements. Mine were emotive, personal, somewhat wounded, well-meaning, but ultimately flawed. Yours seemed somewhat curt, insistent, yet just as well-meaning and completely accurate. Yes, you were completely right and justified, but still it's somewhat akin to chewing out a child over a mistake he's made and when prompted with why doing so, insisting "but he's WRONG." I realize this makes me the child of the scenario, but I'm okay with that concerning the accuracy of my prostate/breast cancer statements. Still I think that's why people got a little upset your vitriol, just as some others got upset with the vitriol with which I made my defensive statements. And once again, for the record I was only wrong with one of my statements, the AIDS resurgence comment was just unsupported at the time.

4. Once again I'm sorry if I said anything that disrespected anyone. This topic probably touches too close to home.

5. And once again getting back to the issue at hand. A silly meme-like thing helped someone very important to me. Sure, we've reached over-saturation of awareness, and most women now know to get mammograms by a certain age and check and how to watch for signs. For most people it's a foregone conclusion... But I hope we can also realize that in one specific case, that the over-saturating of awareness came though and helped educate one specific woman on an issue that directly mattered to her. And that there are a small group of young women with a genetic proclivity to getting it at very young age, far younger than the common consensus of breast cancer prevention. And if a silly meme-like thing can do that, if it can spur on something life-saving, even just once, isn't that all that matters?

Cause I can sure as hell tell you that that's all that matters to me.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:19 PM on January 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow. Has this really turned into a dueling cancer thread? I think everyone here is better than that.

Fuck.
posted by Splunge at 6:36 PM on January 8, 2010


Is the activism model the best way to allocate research funds and health care resources?

Of course not. But the basic activism model has always been, and always will be...


"What do we want?"

"Shameless pandering to our special constituency!"

"When to we want it?"

"NOW!!!"


THAT'S politics, baby.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:52 PM on January 8, 2010


Lacking Subtlety, I know you've already been spanked a few times in this thread, and I want to commend your apology for both its sincerity and even-handed language.

However, I feel your comparison of breast cancer to AIDS/HIV is a bit specious. Aids is a virus, and thus awareness plays a different role than it does with cancer, a disease. The only thing they really have in common is they both make people sick. I'm not disagreeing with your points, per se, but that is not a particularly good way of illustrating them.
posted by smoke at 8:45 PM on January 8, 2010


Thanks for clearing all that up, Lacking Subtlety. Gracefully handled.
posted by Edgewise at 2:49 AM on January 9, 2010


my first thought on seeing the meme go around on FB was whoever started it must be roflmao at the sheeple
posted by infini at 3:21 AM on January 9, 2010


was that last bit english? and its comprehensible? did I just write that? hm, just like the job ad pointed out for containing the sentence "we'll pwn the n00b"
posted by infini at 3:22 AM on January 9, 2010


I tried to comment about this in the earlier thread that got deleted, so this is a delayed response to the observation that "if it only reminded one person to check her 'girls', it was worth it."

....The problem, though, if even just one woman missed the message because she didn't have the time to figure out why the hell people were talking about colors all of a sudden, it WASN'T worth it.

Because this is an "awareness" campaign which was CONCEALING what it was trying to make people "aware of", which is just silly. More so -- it was FEEDING the very problem that we should be trying to correct.

The one and only memory I have concerning my paternal grandmother was of a day when I was about four, and my father came home early from work and told my mother she'd died. I remember vividly seeing my mom burst into tears and hug him, and I remember feeling scared because I'd never seen my mother cry at all. Of my actual grandmother Loretta, I have no memory.

My grandmother died of breast cancer.

And the hell of it is -- as my father remarked recently -- even back then, something could have been done to save her IF SHE HAD BEEN ABLE TO TALK ABOUT IT. If we had been living in a culture where she was comfortable going to her doctor and talking about it, if she hadn't been made to feel like talking about her own very body was something that was just a giggly tee-hee girly thing or a shameful "people don't want to hear about it" thing, she might have gotten help in time to SAVE her, instead of having her living in such ignorance that she thought that the only reason she was having these pains was because she lifted something heavy outside in the cold.

Keeping discussion about women's bodies confined to either a "tee-hee shhh it's a secret don't tell the boys" thing or a "eeew gross icky" thing is what KILLED my grandmother. An awareness campaign that demotes discussion of breast cancer to a "tee hee what color is your bra shhh don't tell the boys tee-hee" thing perpetuates that culture. That's exactly the kind of thing we need to stop.

Oh, and one final point: they are not "girls". They are BREASTS. B-R-E-A-S-T-S. Say it with me: "breasts."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 AM on January 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


My biggest issue with a lot of "awareness" campaigns, particularly National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is that it's sponsored by Astra-Zeneca, which is the biotech wing of Syngenta, which is a (subsidiary|affiliate {I forget which}) of Dow Chemical, which makes some of the most carcinogenic household chemicals in the world. Because of this, the national breast cancer conversation centers around early detection, breast self-exams, mammography, etc.

While that's an essential and critical part of breast health, it ends up casting breast cancer as --oops! just this thing that happens. So keep feeling your boobies to see if it's happened to you! But, in fact, breast cancer rates are strongly influenced by environmental exposures, and women have a lot of power to reduce their chances of getting breast cancer by reducing those environmental exposures. But that would mean Dow Chemical and their gentlemanly associates selling fewer of their products, and we can't have THAT! So instead, they run this campaign that not only makes them look good but also places the entire burden of avoiding mortality or morbidity from breast cancer on women themselves. It's a marketing coup, and it makes me kind of ill.
posted by KathrynT at 8:43 AM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I skipped this meme along with all the other silly Facebook memes that pop up all the time and I paid very little attention to my friends' color updates. But there were two exceptions.

I stuck my foot in my mouth because the first color I saw was "pink" from a friend who has been trying to get pregnant. I thought it was an announcement of success and congratulated her. Crap.

But more importantly, my only Facebook friend who has been through breast cancer posted "Beige. They're all beige. Not many other choices after a masectomy." That's the only status update I saw that might have actually done some good for people being aware of the real impact of cancer. All the other cancer survivors I know on Facebook are male - so they're pretty much excluded from the fun of this too.
posted by Dojie at 11:14 AM on January 9, 2010


Seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity to me--if we believe the American Cancer Society, self examination should be encouraged. I was hoping FB 'awareness' updates would include something more concretely linked - 'I felt myself' or something similar. Alas, no.
posted by brambory at 4:26 AM on January 10, 2010


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