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Cancer campaigns: Are they really helping?

The country gets a pink makeover every October, and moustaches galore are grown come Movember, all in the name of cancer awareness. Yet how much of those decorative dollars really help find a cure?

Canadian moeny awareness ribbon |
Society is quick to jump on the awareness bandwagon. While wearing a pink ribbon, or growing a moustache may seem like you’re elevating the status of certain causes, unless actual currency is being contributed to cancer research, nothing will change.

What does “awareness” really mean?

Think Before You Pink is an organization that promotes breast cancer action over “awareness.” In 2002, tired of the relentless pinkwashing (not dissimilar to brainwashing), the organization decided to take a stand against any company or organization that “claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.”

The truth is, packaging a product with the recognizable pink ribbon is not widely regulated, and therefore anyone can appear to be helping advance the cause when sadly nothing is actually being done to find a cure. The same applies to other cancers and their related awareness products.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and with only a small portion of cancer awareness efforts being dedicated to this deadly cancer, it is imperative that the products you purchase are actually making a difference. Ponder Before You Purple or the equivalent doesn’t exist, because pancreatic cancer hardly has a media or industry presence. The overwhelming lack of support is rather alarming. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a more diligent consumer by learning more about the companies and products you purchase in the name of cancer research.

Before you spend on the trend

  • Ask how much of the sale of the product goes to support cancer research.
  • Before buying in to the ribbon, think twice. Look up the specific product online, and find out where the money is going.
  • When in doubt, Charity Intelligence Canada can help you put your donating dollars to good use.
Survival rates:

  • Prostate cancer: 98%
  • Breast cancer: 89%
  • Pancreatic cancer: 6%

Get the facts on pancreatic cancer

Research for pancreatic cancer receives only 0.1 per cent of all cancer donations. When it comes to this silent killer, little is said or done, resulting in the survival rate remaining unchanged for 40 years. Pancreatic cancer does not garner the same media recognition as other cancers do, nor does it share the same successful statistics, unfortunately.

Pancreatic cancer point by point

  • 94 per cent of patients die within five years of their diagnosis, and 75 per cent of patients die within the first year.
  • Risk factors are rare, and symptoms — including back and abdominal pain, weight loss, jaundice and nausea — tend to begin only at advanced stages.
  • Half of Canadian cancer deaths are from pancreatic, stomach, lung and colorectal cancers, yet they receive only 15 per cent of research funding and less than 2 per cent of charity funding.

Did you know?

Canadians donate 151 times more to breast cancer charities than to four of the deadliest cancers combined (pancreatic, stomach, lung and colorectal).

Products and organizations actually making a difference

  • Accessorize for Awareness is a non-profit organization that fashions purple charm bracelets for $5 a pop. It’s #ArmCandyForACure, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to fund research.
  • Pancreatic Cancer Canada is an excellent resource. The organization provides support and extends a wealth of information, services and opportunities to get involved.
  • 7 Days in May is a charity cycling event dedicated to raising awareness and funds to cure pancreatic cancer. This year it is supporting the NCIC Clinical Trials Group in Kingston, Ontario, with the aim to significantly improve the survival odds for pancreatic cancer patients who are eligible for surgery.

As a consumer, it is vital to do your homework. Blindly supporting a cause at the request of a cashier upon checkout might not necessarily benefit the cancer it claims to help.

Do your research, and root for the underdog of cancers this month.

More on cancer

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: What you need to know
Ovarian cancer: Being aware
Cervical Cancer Month: 5 Things you should know

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