Breast Cancer Pink Ribbon
Why a Pink Ribbon for breast cancer awareness?
“Pink is the quintessential female color,” says Margaret Welch, director of the Color Association of the United States. “The profile on pink is playful, life-affirming. We have studies as to its calming effect, its quieting effect, its lessening of stress. [Pastel pink] is a shade known to be health-giving; that’s why we have expressions like ‘in the pink.’ You can’t say a bad thing about it.” Pink is, in other words, everything cancer notably is not.
One in ten women is diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States of America. It is the second largest killer after lung cancer and can affect both male and female. However, woman are one hundred time more likely to suffer from the disease than men.
The disease usually starts in the lining of the milk ducts and frequently manifests itself as a palpable lump either in the breast itself or in the arm pit, nipple inversion, bleeding nipple and much more. There are many different types of breast cancer and the survival rate depends on many factors. The most common treatments includes chemo-therapy, hormone-therapy, radiation-therapy and surgery. However, satisfying results have been achieved with various alternative therapies.
The battle has been raging against the disease for many years with many campaigns designed to raise funds for research, promoting awareness and funding treatment. The original idea began in 1991 with the Susan Komen Foundation, where pink ribbons were handed out to those participating in a fund raising event.
Then some time later, a cancer sufferer named Caroline Hayley produced and sold a card which contained a ‘peach’ coloured ribbon. The purpose of the card and the ribbon was to bring to the attention of the public and government legislators, the chronic lack of investment by the National Cancer Institute, who despite having a annual budget of almost two Billion USD, spent only 5%, which equated to a mere fraction of what they had available on cancer preventing.
The idea was well publicised and captured the public imagination, attracting a considerable amount of the attention from individuals like Evelyn Lauder of the Estee Lauder cosmetics giant and Alexander Penney editor of Women’s Health Magazine. They assisted with the distribution in stores and retail outlets across New York City, which eventually spread throughout the USA. With this success they approached Caroline Hayley to offer her their help, however she felt that the project would become too commercialised and so she declined their offer.
Not to be put off by her rejection Penney and Lauder sought legal advice and eventually came up with the ‘pink ribbon’ idea. Since then the pink ribbon has become an international symbol of breast cancer awareness and a symbol of solidarity on the part of the people who wear it.
October has been designated breast cancer month world wide, when thousands of items using the pink ribbon symbol are designed manufactured, produced and sold, in an effort to raise both funds and awareness. During this period fund raising parties, collections, fetes and much more are held for the specific purpose of generating funds for research and to further stimulate awareness.
In the US in 1996 US postage stamp was produced incorporating the pink ribbon symbol, unfortunately this first attempt was not as successful as was hoped. However, later a new design was launched which did not incorporate the pink ribbon, but focused on breast cancer awareness, which did very much better.
In 2006 The Canadian government with the involvement of the Canadian mint engraving director, Cosme Staffioti minted 15,000 coins to commemorate Pink month. On one side the coin was pink and on the other, the head of Queen Elizabeth 2nd. This proved to be extremely popular, so a further 30,000 was produced with similar success. It was the second time in history that colour was used in the minting of coins, destine to be used as legal tender.
The pink campaign has not always had an easy ride and has in the past attracted some criticisms. The main criticism is that the campaign exacerbates the fears of cancer suffers and their relatives, by transforming what for them is a very serious disease, laced with tragedy for all concerned, into a marketing and money-making machinery. Further criticisms have indicated that a great deal of material and memorabilia is produced which serves only to create pollution and has been condemned as ‘pink-washing’.
A San Francisco cancer awareness group have coined a new slogan for their yearly campaign, ‘Think before you pink’ in an effort to encourage campaigners to reflect on the deeper implications of the disease and the devastating impact it has on the lives of the people who are affected and their families.
Current advice is that while breast cancer can affect any age group and viewed as a serious possibility, women over fifty in particular are generally advised to have a mammogram bi-annually, self-examine on a regular basis and any signs of irregularity or abnormality should be taken seriously and investigated without delay. Although men are much less likely to develop the disease they should also examine themselves on a routine basis.