Why Awareness is Stupid and Practically Pointless

October is coming. I hope it’ll be better this year with the big die-in on October 13, but it’s still gonna be a shitshow. I’ve been thinking a lot about why it drives me, personally, so insane, and I’ve come to a realization: it’s that awareness is stupid and practically pointless. Let me explain.

I feel like there’s a big difference between awareness campaigns and education campaigns. Education campains don’t just try to tell you some information; they also try to get you to do something. In the world of breast cancer, that includes getting people to go for routine breast cancer screening, ask their doctor about their breast density, and become familiar with their breasts so they notice when their breasts show symptoms of breast cancer. In short, there’s an ask explicit with education–it gives information that hopefully will lead people to take action.

Awareness, on the other hand, has no ask. It says, “Be aware that breast cancer exists!” It includes images of dogs wearing bras and pink ribbons on fireworks, because it’s not about educating people. It’s simply about making them aware that breast cancer is a thing. If all you want to do is to say “Hey you, there is a thing and it is called breast cancer” then yes, awareness is the right tool. But why in the fuck would you want to do that? What is the point of making sure people know that breast cancer exists? What does knowing it exists accomplish?

I can only think of one thing it accomplishes: some of it brings in money for breast cancer charities–but not all of it, because some of that awareness isn’t even related to charitable fundraising. Now, if all the money that awareness generates was being spent on education or patient support or research, then OK, I guess I’d feel OK about that. And there are many charities that are doing that, and I encourage you to donate to them. Unfortunately, there are too many (cough cough Komen cough cough) who aren’t. They’re spending it on more awareness. Which brings them more money, to be spent on more awareness.

This is why October drives me crazy: because all that awareness could be replaced with education, and then we’d really be getting somewhere. There are still too many people not getting the screening appropriate to their risk of breast cancer. There are still too many people who need to know what inflammatory breast cancer looks like. Imagine if awareness was converted from something stupid and practically pointless into something that actually DOES something. Wouldn’t that be so much better? Waste makes ne nuts. It just does. And seeing all these resources spent on awareness makes me want to stab a pen in my eye.

So, how about if we, as the breast cancer community, change the conversation from one of stupid and practically pointless awareness, to one of education? And maybe, just maybe, we can change the story for actual people with breast cancer.

3 thoughts on “Why Awareness is Stupid and Practically Pointless

  1. Excellent post, and I totally agree. Awareness is useless, and why are awareness campaigns for breast cancer the most predominant? I mean, one doesn’t see as much heart attack awareness campaigns because it’s obvious these conditions exist. Education is key, as well as funding toward research.
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  2. A big part of the awareness problem is it is so superficial and incomplete. Because BC runs in my family, because I was told to watch for lumps and get mammograms, that is what I did. Nobody warned me not all breast cancers have lumps and some don’t show on mammograms.

    I am alive today because I just happened to have a routine appointment a few days after redness appeared on one breast and I asked my doctor about it. She suspected Inflammatory Breast Cancer and sent me for an ultrasound, which resulted in a biopsy. I was 3B IBC. A few months after almost a year of treatment, I had a metastasis in my spine, making me stage 4.

    Women deserve complete information, including what to watch for in addition to lumps. And they need to know once they have an early stage BC, they are at risk for stage 4. Awareness, as it currently is done, does not even come close to what women need to know.

  3. I’m not sure what your local Komen affiliate does but the Charlotte affiliate does a great deal of educational forums (such as Pink Sundays in the African Americans churches) and offers grants to help folks with the day to day shit that goes along with having this disease. I know all this because I am a Komen Ambassador AND I receive the benefits of Komen grants (from having my first diagnostic mammogram paid for so long ago in 2007, when I had no insurance by a Komen grant to receiving two custom lymphodema compression sleeves from Komen grants to receiving my new compression wraps and a new sleeve when the time comes from … wait for it …Komen grants). I know big bad Komen gets the brunt of the hot pink heat every October but if memory serves Komen is part of the MBCA. And, when asked this year to start acknowledging Stage IV’ers at the Race for the Cure, the Charlotte affiliate has agreed to and have agreed to put more emphasis on education as it relates to Stage IV. Is Komen perfect? Hell no! But then what organization or charity is. Are all Komen affiliates progressive and open to metsters? I can’t speak to that because I only know what the Charlotte affiliate is doing (and as a side note, the Charlotte affiliate serves about 10 surrounding counties and have services in some of the poorest sectors in this part of North Carolina). And now I’m off my pink soap box. Two cents spent!

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