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28th October 2016

Ways to (actually) celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Pumpkin recipes and Halloween dress-ups are some definite signs that we are in October.

Besides food and parties, October also touches on serious health issues through a series of health awareness campaigns including World Osteoporosis Day, World Mental Health Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Let’s stop right here for a minute: Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Cancer, we all know, is a disease which consists in rapid spread and growth of abnormal cells. According to WHO, 13% of deaths worldwide are attributed to cancer. World Cancer Research Fund International estimates that 1.7 million. women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

Looking at the numbers, it makes sense to raise awareness about breast cancer and encourage people to get tested early enough to reduce the risks. Rightly so, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is one of the biggest campaigns of this kind. Just look for #BreastAwarenessMonth online and you’ll quickly discover plenty of Pinterest Boards, Instagram pictures, Tweets  and Facebook posts on this matter.

While people and breast cancer survivors welcome the worldwide attention given to the disease, with celebrities and major brands getting the word out, it’s sometimes difficult to make the distinction between a real awareness campaign and the subject being used for commercial or self-promotion purposes.

Certain campaigns have created backlash as many breast cancer survivors thought they were too light or didn’t give the real picture. And it’s easy to see their point when you come across campaigns like this, this, or this one. Luckily, there are also projects such as Think Before you Pink that bring to light the need for more transparency in breast cancer fundraising and a shift from “pink ribbon marketing and culture” to education and action.

Talking openly about the disease doesn’t have to mean getting drowned in empty pink symbols nor an extra reason to get women posing nude on magazine covers. And while some campaigns are actually very creative and do their jobs in terms of making you think -even if just for a few minutes- about breast cancer, they should not become a distraction from the real issue at hand.

There are Breast Cancer Awareness campaigns that successfully capture the subject of what it is like to have cancer, or the importance of small gestures to show your genuine care and concern. At the end of the day, people do get ill and the struggle is not easier with sugar-coated encouragements. On the other hand, real support, education, and prioritization of healthy behaviours do make a difference.

Health Awareness Days are important: they draw attention to how precious life and health are amid everything that could go wrong. In some instances, it has been proved that Health Awareness Days have a real positive outcome. As we can see with breast cancer, it takes a critical eye to see the forest for the trees and separate genuine support and significant action from a PR blitz.

So, if you didn’t do anything for the Breast Cancer Awareness Month yet and you want to make a difference, how about getting you or someone close tested?