Pink Cleats Will Not Cure Cancer

| October 5, 2016


Last Friday was the end of the month, end of the quarter, and for some companies and organizations, end of the fiscal year. October, as it used to be called, as in “Mr. October”, would strike at Midnight on Saturday as Pinktober for 31 days, ending in a holiday characterized by black and orange and pink…

It’s only October 5 and I am getting worn out with Pinktober. Or at least the stories about how this national campaign during a national month for a national cause has run of the rails. Before Pinktober even started there was an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “The NFL’s Pink Publicity Stunt Isn’t About Fighting Cancer” with a byline “The football league seems more interested in winning female fans than actually helping find a cure.” Pretty harsh words any day of the year, but hours before Pinktober at 6:38 PM ET on 30 September 2016? Couldn’t we get through the weekend before we started slamming pink construction cones, pink handcuffs, pink football players and pink bats and baseballs and airplanes and airline terminals?

img_7689Not to be left out, American Airlines, or specifically, their terminal at O’Hare this weekend had alternating “Fly the W” flags and Pink Ribbons. Okay, we are the official carrier for the, dare I say, World Series Champion Chicago Cubs, and we are going to help cure breast cancer. But Pinktober is also October which means Baseball on Fox and every pitch on ESPN. Okay, maybe getting too commercial here but seriously, which one is it, root for your baseball team, which I FULLY appreciate – GO CUBS! FLY THE W! aaaaaaaaaaand Cure Cancer!

Back to the WSJ article, written by a surgical oncologist who writes “I am a cancer surgeon, and having witnessed a patient gasp for air while dying compels me to want society to do everything, spend anything and educate everyone to cure cancer. In reality, however, funding for cancer research gets allocated to forms of the disease based heavily on public relations, rather than on the number of lives they claim.” She briefly breaks down what cancers receive the most funding compared with their mortalities, contrasting, for example, breast and pancreatic cancer and an imbalance between how much breast cancer funding there is compare with say lung, or prostate or pancreatic cancer.

And I said this last October and the October before that and the October before that, before Pinktober was a word, perhaps – the breast cancer community, in part, made this happen, increasing awareness and funding and fundraising and corporate donations in the 100s of millions of dollars. National colon cancer, pancreatic cancer or Alzheimer’s month can’t hold a candle to what goes on now in October until we officially change the name to Pinktober.

img_7717I do it too. Change my social media banners with images of breast cancer. Pink ribbon on my work bag and suitcases and bike box to bring attention. Ride a bike 400 miles in 3 states. Perhaps someone will get a mammogram or get treated and potentially cured at Stage 1. As I wrote a few days ago, we all know a Harriett. Today, they are common surgical samples. We rush all breast biopsies – next day diagnoses are apparently more critical in breast over prostate, lung, colon, brain, kidney or liver cancer. It is highly political. Heck, it has its own month by name now.

But as Dr. Makary writes before we even got into Pinktober, “It is time to take the self-serving public relations out of supporting the cause of cancer and focus on the patients. Efforts should address their needs and research toward a cure, not just for breast cancer, but for all patients suffering from cancer.”

As for the NFL, according to the article, it has raised $12 million with an organization with about $12 billion in revenue. Dr. Makary thinks it may be more about attracting female fans and perhaps “offering a rose to those concerned about a domestic violence.”

And now there are organizations with campaigns of their own this month and throughout the year for metastatic breast cancer, such as Metavivor ( with slogans like “You do not die from breast cancer in the breast.” More on this to follow.

Perhaps there is a lesion here from an organization that makes $12 billion a year we can all learn from as Dr. Makary points out – a commitment from our society to a deeper, meaningful investment, including research – for all cancer patients – not just for awareness, screening and early stage for a particular cancer.

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Category: Advocacy, Anatomic Pathology, Current Affairs, Education, Medical Research, Pathology News, Patient Advocacy, Personal

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