Rethinking Pinktober: Are We More Aware of “Breast Cancer Awareness” Than the Disease Itself?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so in the spirit of awareness-raising, I’d like to make you all a little more aware of what awareness campaigns are actually making you aware of.

Did my over-use of the word “awareness” in the previous sentence make your head spin a little? Well, that’s probably because the message of breast cancer awareness campaigns is mostly just that: spin.

The ubiquitous pink ribbons are merely a distraction from the fact that the organizations that sell them, ostensibly “for the cure,” are no closer to finding a cure than they were 20 years ago.

What Breast Cancer Awareness Has Accomplished

Now, before I examine the issues within the current state of breast cancer activism, let me first give credit where credit is due. In the past, there was a great deal of shame surrounding breast cancer. Because breast cancer affected what was considered a “private part,” so closely tied to sexuality, maternity and feminine identity, women were ashamed to publicly divulge their diagnoses or be examined and diagnosed at all.

Breast cancer was a disease spoken about behind closed doors, not something one would acknowledge in public. Women had little support, and there was little understanding or acknowledgement of the emotional ramifications of suffering from the disease, or the emotional trauma of losing one or both breasts. Many women suffered in silence with a deadly disease they considered shameful.

In 1974, former First Lady Betty Ford publicly announced that she had undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer, and is often credited with beginning the breast cancer awareness era. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, breast cancer awareness campaigns helped to de-stigmatize a terrible disease, and encouraged women to seek support and treatment. Women today feel more empowered to take control of their health, and not ashamed to seek help. And, to this day, these organizations dedicated to breast cancer awareness give women with breast cancer (and their loved ones) a feeling of community and support. These are all undeniably excellent developments that have greatly benefited women with breast cancer.

We’re all aware of breast cancer now though, right? Nowadays I feel more aware of “breast cancer awareness” than I do of the disease itself. It’s all been so heavily swaddled in pink ribbons that the disease itself seems secondary to the cutesy marketing of the disease.

But for now, let’s put the pinkwashing aside, and focus on the goals of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

After raising billions for research, are we any closer to ‘The Cure?’

The Susan G. Komen Foundation touts “finding the cure” as the primary impetus for donating and participating in their awareness campaigns, and the dollars and grants given in research as their primary charitable deed. Yet despite the billions of dollars that have been poured into breast cancer research, we are apparently no closer to the cure than we were before.

“Breast Cancer Awareness Month” was actually founded by AstraZeneca, a drug company that, by the way, produces and sells breast cancer drugs. The money that goes to breast cancer research ends up going to research organizations that research and develop new drugs, which are then patented and sold by pharmaceutical companies to breast cancer patients at exorbitant prices. For example, Afinitor, a new breast cancer drug approved in July, costs over $200 per pill. Come on, let’s be honest: pharmaceutical companies are hardly hurting for cash; it’s a highly profitable multi-billion-dollar industry. Your well-meaning donation or pink purchase just ends up lining their already-fat pockets.

For supporters of holistic therapies, the fact that these donations benefit pharmaceutical companies is problematic, as they focus solely on developing yet more drugs, pills and toxic treatments, while ignoring the potential of alternative therapies. Research for “the cure” still focuses on the same treatments that are not curing cancer: chemo, drugs and radiation.

Is it any wonder that they are getting no closer to the cure, when they just keep going back to the same old treatments that haven’t been working?

Oh, and the rest of that money? The money that does not go toward research? That either goes toward advertising and promoting the currently available treatments for breast cancer (i.e., the treatments that are not successfully curing cancer today: chemo, radiation and surgery), paying hefty executive salaries, advertising and promoting mammograms for early detection, or right back into the breast cancer marketing machine and the nebulous task of awareness-raising.

So much “for the cure.”

If we already know about breast cancer, then what’s the point of breast cancer awareness?

A few years ago, Facebook users might remember a viral campaign by Susan G. Komen that encouraged women to post the color of their bra as their status, with no context or explanation, apparently to “raise awareness” for breast cancer. While the deluge of color statuses inspired a few titillated giggles from people who knew of the campaign and felt “in on the joke,” what possible benefit could it have done for women actually suffering from cancer?

The only thing I felt more aware of was the contents of my friends’ laundry hampers. However, the apparent (but barely discernible) purpose of the campaign was to encourage women to get annual mammograms.

Why mammograms?

This is the main message of Breast Cancer Awareness Month: encouraging women to get yearly mammograms, and labeling early detection as the best way to combat breast cancer.

Women are being drilled and educated about the importance of mammograms, but mammograms are not a real solution to the breast cancer epidemic. Mammograms can’t prevent cancer, they simply alert doctors and patients to already-existing lumps and tumors. In some cases, mammograms can catch malignant tumors early, and stop the cancer before it spreads.

However, research has shown that this scenario is less common than you might think, and mammograms actually do little to increase the rate of cancer survival. Doctors are now suggesting that women shouldn’t begin getting yearly mammograms at age 40, as the Susan G. Komen Foundation suggests is necessary, that the age should be raised to 50, and women should only have mammograms half as often.

Are mammograms the solution to the breast cancer epidemic?

Many of lumps that mammograms detect are small, benign and unlikely to pose a future threat. False positives are common, and now breast cancer is often over-diagnosed. Women with benign lumps are pushed into unnecessary invasive treatments: given drugs or mastectomies for small tumors that had little risk of becoming malignant. Many of the cancer drugs they’re given are carcinogenic themselves, and lead to a higher risk of developing other types of cancer in the future!

The very procedure of having a mammogram done is problematic. Mammograms are a type of x-ray. Yet radiation is a known cause of cancer, and the more exposure to radiation people have, the higher the risk of cancer. So does it really make sense to have a yearly appointment to expose your breasts to radiation? Just last month, a study by BMJ indicated that radiation from mammograms increases the chances of breast cancer developing in women whose genes put them at a higher risk for the disease.

The other risk associated with mammograms is the fact that some studies have shown that mammograms can activate tumors and promote metastasis. One study in the International Journal of Health Services stated that the harsh squeezing of breast tissue during mammograms “may lead to distant and lethal spread of malignant cells by rupturing small blood vessels in or around small, as yet undetected breast cancers.”

Is there a safer alternative to mammograms?

ThermogramThere are other, safer ways to detect breast cancer. Thermography in particular is quite promising and non-toxic. Thermography uses infrared imaging to examine breast tissue, vascular changes and inflammation. They use no radiation, don’t squash the delicate breast tissue, and may even be able to detect irregularities earlier than mammograms. If a proliferation of blood vessels are seen, this can indicate the possibility of early stages of tumor formation, as tumors need a blood supply to feed them.

Thermograms do not offer a definitive diagnosis; only a biopsy will tell if there are malignant cancer cells present. However, thermography can alert women and their doctors to irregularities without health risks, so that women can minimize the need for invasive testing. If the results are suspicious, a woman can start applying therapies to turn this around while it is still at an early stage. Yet mammograms are the tests that women are pushed to undergo most frequently.

Why aren’t we talking about breast cancer prevention?

Yet for all the education and awareness being raised over certain breast cancer issues, there is a serious dearth of awareness of prevention. The problem with pushing early detection over prevention is that it treats breast cancer as an inevitability. The types of prevention encouraged can be somewhat extreme. Some women that have a family history of cancer but no sign of the disease are encouraged to have “preventive mastectomies.” They are encouraged to have their breast surgically removed, on the off chance that they might someday develop breast cancer.

This attitude seems to perpetuate the idea that all women are doomed to breast cancer and that only by catching it early enough can women’s lives be spared.

There are chemicals and environmental factors that are known to contribute to breast cancer that women can learn to avoid, to lower their risk of breast cancer. Why focus on detecting cancer early, when you can encourage women to make an effort to avoid getting breast cancer in the first place? As Charlotte Gerson once said:

So while we’re all raising awareness of breast cancer, why don’t we teach women to avoid chemicals that increase their risk of breast cancer, such as…

  • Cosmetics, perfumes and skin care products that contain parabens, chemicals that disrupt hormone function and are linked to increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Plastics, especially those containing BPA. BPA is a well-known carcinogen and hormone disruptor.
  • Fatty foods and junk foods. Obesity is a contributing risk factor for many types of cancer, including breast cancer.
  • Alcohol. Booze damages the liver and makes it more difficult for the body to eliminate harmful toxins.
  • Dairy products and meat produced from animals given growth hormones such as rGBH, which is banned in many countries around the world due to grave health concerns and links to breast, colon and prostate cancers

Hmmm. That’s strange. Why AREN’T they teaching women to avoid these toxic, carcinogenic products?

Oh, silly me. I should have known.

It’s because those toxic products are currently sitting on store shelves “raising awareness” of breast cancer.

In Part II of this “Rethink Pink” series, I take a closer look at some of these carcinogenic pink ribbon products, as well as examining some of the larger cultural issues that “pink ribbon culture” brings up:


Rethink Pink, Part II: Carcinogens for the Cure

This October, you don’t have to buy a pink plastic water bottle to make a stand against cancer. Find out how you can support the Gerson Institute’s work:


Educational articles like this are made possible with your generosity. Help us continue the legacy of Dr. Max Gerson, his daughter Charlotte Gerson, and the thousands who rely on the Gerson Institute for vital educational materials and training.



38 Responses to “Rethinking Pinktober: Are We More Aware of “Breast Cancer Awareness” Than the Disease Itself?”
  1. Jessica says:

    Wonderful article. Thank you

  2. Cindy says:

    Best Post I have read on this topic yet! Thanks for taking the time and having the nerve to speak the TRUTH. As one that was pushed into Radiation (after having 37 Mammograms so far during my lifetime), I now truly fear getting Cancer from the Treatment. I shared this on FB.

  3. Tanya says:

    I am so over the conventional approach to treating degenerative disease. Nobody though wants to hear this, I have bought the videos for ppl, the books, told story after story, led ppl to the Gerson website; and I mean ppl with stage 4 cancer and nope…they only want to continue to listen to the medical profession. I am so exhausted from trying to get others to educate themselves and I truly just want to give up! I don’t understand why it’s so hard for ppl to get, that our modern ways are killing us! As usual, I will post this on my facebook, knowing nobody will look at it:( I have argued with plenty of nurses and doctors but they at some level write me off bc after all I am not the one with the degree;)

  4. Tanya says:

    I am so over the conventional approach to treating degenerative disease. Nobody though wants to hear this, I have bought the videos for ppl, the books, told story after story, led ppl to the Gerson website; and I mean ppl with stage 4 cancer and nope…they only want to continue to listen to the medical profession. I am so exhausted from trying to get others to educate themselves and I truly just want to give up! I don’t understand why it’s so hard for ppl to get, that our modern ways are killing us! As usual, I will post this on my facebook, knowing nobody will look at it:( I have argued with plenty of nurses and doctors but they at some level write me off bc after all I am not the one with the degree;)

  5. Thank you for writing this article! I have been looking for something like this for a long time to share with people who keep saying they are helping cancer by buying pink bracelets and car magnets or that there’s nothing they can do because it runs in the family. Ignorance is bliss but Knowledge is power…Looking forward to your upcoming articles, Thanks again!

  6. Thank you for writing this article! I have been looking for something like this for a long time to share with people who keep saying they are helping cancer by buying pink bracelets and car magnets or that there’s nothing they can do because it runs in the family. Ignorance is bliss but Knowledge is power…Looking forward to your upcoming articles, Thanks again!

  7. Suzy Manning says:

    I never donate to Breast Cancer research as they are only funding bigPharma which has no desire to find a cure. Cancer is too big of a money maker. Thanks for writing the truth. Breast Cancer Awareness is a distraction. Until we go to cause, we will not find a cure. I know there are natural approaches that heal the body, but somehow someone silences them, discredits them, or puts them out of business.

  8. Jess DC says:

    Thanks for sharing this awesome information!

  9. Bianca says:

    Thanks for the article. Don’t forget about breastfeeding. Baby formula is yet another product that raises the risk of breast cancer.

  10. Jessica Thorn says:

    Tanya I am in the same boat you are in. I have bought the videos, the books, given them away..Have made people watch the movies that come out.. but no one wants to listen. I have two uncles who are dying of cancer right now, have asked my mother to give them the Gerson books, and she tells me “now’s not a good time”.. I just lost one of my best friends to bladder cancer, and almost 11 years ago I lost a best friend to cervical cancer. I too do not embrace the “turn fb pink” or the donations to companies because they carry a “pink” item. I am truly disgusted with the entire cancer “industry”.. I am so glad someone had the courage to write this article. Why are people so blind as to what the real “cure” is? Why don’t they listen to reason? Why don’t they understand that this is a freaking epidemic we are having right now! I almost feel bad when I post things about natural cures and the benefits of veggies and fruits.. I feel bad because I think that I am “bothering” people.. Just recently I posted about a new film on GMO’s.. VERY important film (in my eyes anyways) do you think ONE person even “liked” it? Heck NO! Then I write a random posting of a smiley face and I get 14 responses! WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? Anyways, I just wanted you to know that you are NOT alone… I share your same issues!!

  11. The Wingers says:

    Excellent points — we should be focusing on prevention rather than only on “curing.”

    As for “awareness” and getting the topic of breast cancer out in the open, consider where men are today with prostate cancer. That’s still a mostly-taboo topic which could use a lot more “awareness” — and more focus on prevention, again!

  12. Ben says:

    Ally, you are a voice of truth. Keep it up! The article in Wikipedia on Max Gerson stated repeatedly that this therapy is “scientifically unsupported” and lacks “controlled, prospective studies as evidence.” Just curious if you have seen the highly negative tone on this article, and where, or why not has there been scientific evaluation to validate the legitimacy of the Gerson Therapy? My desire is to see this practice allowed in the states, which would ultimately promulgate & proliferate this cause in the war against both Pharma & Cancer. I would just like to know who has the legitimate, scientifically accepted data? My wife & I are in our late 20’s, and juice at least once a day! Love the work that this institute is doing.

  13. GersonInstitute says:

    You’re absolutely right. I actually wrote a bit about prostate cancer in my first draft of this post. There are more prostate cancer diagnoses and deaths per year than breast cancer, and it definitely carries a certain stigma similar to the taboo surrounding breast cancer in the past. Can most people think of what color ribbon signifies prostate cancer awareness? Probably not – even I had to Google it! (It’s light teal).

  14. Sans says:

    I glad you posted this. It’s important to share the root of the truth. Gerson has extensive research to back up the program. I don’t support any of the cancer charties (my son is a childhood brain cancer survivor. We approach our wellness with fresh organic, local foods.

  15. Ben says:

    Tanya, I am mocked by my entire family and can understand. I also can understand why many would question us knowing that the “medical profession” does not promote nutritional treatment & lifestyle. Obviously it’s all about the $, but I do see the right people, aka those with the $ and credentials speaking up. Every time I turn around, there’s another documentary produced advancing the cause, or another book written, etc. Don’t give up. Truth should never be given up.

  16. Dreanki says:

    You just described exactly, what is happening to me on fb. I’m still going to try and help people, but I’ve come to the conclusion that people deserve the crap that they are in. I can understand not listening to someone you don’t know. What really gets me, is that their survival instinct is almost non existent, they can’t even do research to even try to help them selves!

  17. Tia Haenni says:

    In addition, there is a stigma attached to those of us who are conscious objectors to all the “Pink” hype. People don’t want to listen to the truth, they just want to wear their pink ribbon and buy “pink” cookies while they wear their toxic makeup, drink toxins from a toxic container and eat the very products that encourage cancer. (I don’t call it food for a reason). I’m a survivor of a pre-cancerous breast tumor and a big supporter of organizations that don’t just funnel money to the drug companies. Great article!!!

  18. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for posting. Breastfeeding also reduces breast cancer but the majority of people stilllllll choose formula.

  19. Judy Griffin says:

    Really well written article that conveys the frustration many of us feel. I really articles like these that present what is wrong with the Status Quo as well as solid prevention ideas. After losing a best friend and another good friend to Breast Cancer along with having many friends recover from it, I promote Breast Wellness & Prevention as opposed to awareness about Mammos. As your article points out, there is so much more we can do to prevent Breast Cancer and this information isn’t really communicated in the Mainstream. When suggest woman learn more about the diagnostic benefits of Thermography, they just don’t believe it is worthwhile because their physician didn’t suggest it. Likewise, when you advise woman who have dense breast tissue like me that a mammo isn’t effective they don’t believe it. Many avoid reading informative articles like these because it makes them uneasy. Of course diet can make a huge difference but most Oncologists and women don’t make that connection either. Women are still surprised when suggest they only chose organic dairy to avoid rGBH. My goal is to continue sharing Breast Health Promoting & Effective Prevention resources & info and believe that it will make an impact just one person at a time. Thank you!

  20. Bonnie Daut says:

    I hear you friend I have done the same thing

  21. The Posture Lady says:

    Sometimes I feel that the only thing to do is to be an example to the children of today. Our 7 children (blended family) see me doing alternative breast cancer therapies (no chemo. no radiation) and they are very aware of “pinkwashing.” Our youngest (5 year-old twin boys and an 8 year-old boy) shun non-organic foods, tell people they eat “slow” food versus fast-food, play in nature, laugh and live in a simple non-toxic home, and see that mom has chosen a better path. This is where cancer prevention has got to start.

  22. BARBARA says:

    This is the basic problem with the whole medical industry. We all have to start taking over control of our health/bodies again!!

  23. thissomeoneuk says:

    Thank you so much for including breastfeeding (or more rightly the process of lactation) as a means of avoiding cancer (and other reproductive cancers too). For anyone who’s read down this far it might be worthwhile to know why:

    1) womens’ breast cancer is one of 10 forms most frequently originating in the milk duct system
    2) the body releases toxins through the milk ducting system. Now the baby eats these true but they do not pass over the brain/blood barrier. The baby is in fact part of the removal system and natural toxins have no negative effects on the child. However new research is showing that in new mother breast milk complex artificial toxins are now showing up in the milk which do affect your child (the toxic chemicals we consume in foods or absorb through our skin which lodge in our tissues affect breasts, it’s estimated that women need a lactation flow of 11 months – 12 months to clear the human created toxins from their breast milk…). Modern Western women should lactate for 12 months BEFORE feeding their baby to ensure this flow of artificial chemicals do not toxify the child…. And here’s the rub, if a women lactates during this 12 months she still gets the benefit.
    3) men with the breast cancer gene are more likely to get prostate cancer (which is the male equivalent of the toxic release mechanism) because it’s the toxin release mechanisms that are similar not the body part
    4) duration is key: you must lactate for 24 months to get any significant benefit of cancer risk (60%+), or if you hit 36 months this rises to 90%+. This doesn’t need to be in one go so if you had six children at 6 months each over 10 years, you get the idea or one child at 36 months… but this doesn’t mean full time feeding… see 5)
    5) there is no indication as to flow volume effects, by all known information low but regularly released yield should still work to prevent cancer e.g. once or twice a day.
    6) there is a global movement to attempt to get women to see lactation not as a sole act of breast feeding but as a pump&dump method of female health care…

  24. people deserve the crap that they are in.BEAUTIFUL WORDS that many cannot understand ujnless theywent thru it..u went thru it….

  25. When I treated a br cancer woman I was told by her that the mammogram was a torturous and painful experience for people having sores/broken skins on the breast. They did not mind that also in the hospital.
    My treatment consisted of :
    A decoction of 4 sour sop tree leaves for drinking in empty stomach which will act on the cancer tumour in one hour.
    And sun shine on the tumour area under a banana leaf to treat it as per natujropathy principles ;

  26. Sharon says:

    I think these campaigns are an insult to our intelligence and are grossly missing the point. It is an event, o.k. with a somewhat good purpose, but totally misplaced. If they were really funding research, they would have found the cure by now. I see through there ruse. People are so blinded by the hype and have stopped thinking for themselves. Thank you for your article.

  27. Elaine says:

    Thank you for exposing the “pink” nonsense.

  28. Vaibhav says:

    I have the same problem, however, I do know that people are hearing (if not listening) me. And a part of them is listening. Stay put and do your best – trust me you’re helping them. Sometimes it takes numerous gentle reminders and a long time to get stuck people unstuck from their rigid beliefs. But if you are addressing 100 people in your fb and are able to persuade even 1 to move on to wholesome living, it’s a victory, right?

  29. enlightened thoughts says:

    I became aware of the Gerson program through a friend who emailed me a link to The Beautiful Truth. I am a healthy food advocate already and exercise a lot; so I do the healthy life style thing, but the Gerson program has made me even more aware of how our life style choices effect our health. Don’t give up! People may seem not to be listening to you at the moment, but you have planted a seed in their thoughts. The seed will germinate in time.

  30. Neenah says:

    Great article! October should be renamed “Cancer Prevention and Cure Month”. It should not be devoted just to breast cancer or just to “awareness”, but should include all cancers and the name should be changed to focus on prevention and cures.
    It would be interesting who controls the naming of this month!
    Could the Gerson Institute to start a name change campaign?!

  31. Neenahep says:

    I would like to add to my earlier comment on your informative article.

    It would be wonderful if the Gerson Institute could start a campaign to have October renamed “Cancer Prevention and Cure Month” to focus on all cancers and to get beyond “awareness”!

    It would also be great if the Institute could recommend that the color of the ribbon be changed to green to represent life and to include men!

    Even if the name and ribbon color are controlled by the Susan B. Komen Institute, just creating such a campaign might have a growing effect over time. We can all just start calling October “Cancer Prevention and Cure Month”. In addition, we can wear and associate the campaign online with green ribbons!

    Those steps alone could help expose the fraud of the “awareness” hoax if enough people began to join the Green Campaign!

  32. Melina says:

    Otherwise a good article, but how can you honestly and categorically claim that the modern treatments “do not cure cancer”, as there are many, many instances where they actually have done that (no matter what one actually thinks of those cures)? People have been cured, that’s a fact, I know many former cancer patients myself! It would be much more plausible if you didn’t make categorical claims like that which simply are not true.

  33. GersonInstitute says:

    Hi Melina!Thank you for your comment, I would be happy to clarify what I meant by that statement.

    My intent was actually to criticize the rhetoric surrounding the term “The Cure” as promoted by many of these breast cancer charities. I’ve found that when discussing cancer, there’s a difference between “a cure” and “The Cure” with a capital “C.” Doctors typically use the word “cure” to mean that a patient has been cancer-free for 5+ years, which, YES, absolutely by that definition many cancer patients have been cured. Many by the Gerson Therapy!

    However, “The Cure”–as in Susan G. Komen’s Race for–is a term that I feel has gained mythic status. In popular parlance, it has come to mean a cure-all treatment or drug that will eradicate cancer completely in the future. Not “a cure” for an individual with cancer, but THE cure for every patient with cancer. Big cancer charities like Susan G. Komen and the American Cancer Society use this more fantastic definition of “The Cure” to motivate donors, with the idea that with a little more time and a lot more money to pour into research, “The Cure” is right around the corner. Yet, these charities mainly fund research that develops more of the same treatments that are not currently anywhere close to providing this much-ballyhooed Cure-with-a-capital-C.

    I don’t want to negate or minimize the experiences of individuals who have achieved cures, but unfortunately cancer is an epidemic in our world and the cure rate is still low. Given the many problems with the charities mentioned in the article, I feel that “The Cure” seems to be more of a fundraising ploy than an achievable goal for many of these organizations.


  34. Laurie Machamer says:

    Excellent response, Ally! Thank you, too, for the well-written article.

  35. Jennifer Russ says:

    great informative article. not everyone is ready to accept this report. Not everyone will agree but keep pushing forward in a positive light & more & more people will accept & change their lifestyle. I have learned so much from the Gerson website & try to practice & read as much as possible. But it is not easy to obtain in this society. Were being a vegetarian is considered weird…..Drinking diet coke is healthy.

  36. Miriam says:

    people want to pop pills or have injections not change their lifestyle for various reasons all equating with convenience & their taste buds – satisfying their cravings & wants rather than their true needs….FB peeps unfriend me regularly cos of my views on things like cancer/vaccination/health/lifestyle

  37. jasonmchicago says:

    I do not donate to any “cancer association.” If I want to help cancer patients I would buy them books on alternative cancer cures, give them DVDs of alternative cancer cures, and give them a gift certificate to Vitamin Shoppe or Whole Foods to get supplements to build their body up as they work with a non-poisonous doctor (no chemo) to cure themselves of cancer.


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