Breast cancer awareness gets it right

Breast cancer is the third deadliest cancer in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, judging by all the fuss made about it in October, one may be inclined to think that other cancers, some even more deadly, are being woefully underrepresented. This is not to say that I think all of the publicity Breast Cancer Awareness Month gets every year is a bad thing. In fact, the cause’s partnership with the NFL — most visible in the form of pink apparel that the players wear during the month — is a brilliant scheme to raise awareness and promote the fight against breast cancer. While it is comforting to know that breast cancer awareness activists are taking a strong stance in getting the word out, the dearth of publicity that other cancer awareness movements receive evokes the opposite emotion. The only two cancers more deadly than breast cancer are lung cancer and colon cancer. But when was the last time you heard March being touted as “National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” or celebrated “Lung Cancer Awareness Week” in November? These diseases are both far more deadly than breast cancer, so why are they left relatively for dead by activists and media exposure? What’s more is that the leading cause of cancer death in America, lung cancer, is probably the most preventable form of cancer, as most cases directly result from smoking and tobacco use. Breast cancer is not something one can avoid by a simple lifestyle change, only catch early with regular screenings.      Yet despite its relatively undistinguished nature, at least as far as cancers go, it enjoys a month in the national spotlight due to concerted awareness efforts and a partnership with the most popular sport in North America. Once again, I’m not dissing breast cancer as being unimportant or blown out of proportion. Rather, I feel efforts such as the one put forth by breast cancer activists every October should be par for the course with every major type of cancer. With respect to anti-smoking campaigns and all lung cancer awareness efforts that already exist, I feel that, especially because lung cancer owns the dubious distinction of the deadliest cancer in America, more steps should be taken to raise awareness. Perhaps a partnership with another major sport or even with the NFL would do the trick. At least by my perception, efforts that already exist are scattered and relatively ineffective. In fact, every month of the year is designated as an awareness month for a different type of cancer. But when was the last time you saw someone posting a status on Facebook about lung cancer awareness? The effect Breast Cancer Awareness Month has on us is multifaceted, and therefore very effective. I’m looking for other cancer awareness groups — besides the one being observed this month — to step up. Take your month, take a cue from breast cancer awareness efforts and make it count. A concerted, focused effort is all it takes.