Thursday, 4 August 2011

Cancer - and that time of year

Oh dear. It is that time of year where women start posting crass comments on facebook about the colour (of their bra), the state (of their hair), where they like it (left their handbag) and now the latest one, which I can't possibly reveal - or remember - what it is.

If anyone is interested mine were white, long and messy, and hidden under piles of clothes.

All to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Do you know anyone who hasn't had breast cancer? Unlikely.

UK stats for 2008 say that of all cancers in women, 31% are for breast cancer. Or a different statistic says that the risk of developing breast cancer is i in 8, ie 12%. You can do anything with statistics.

I have met some great patients with breast cancer, have some lovely friends who have had breast cancer, and I can't begin to know how they manage to smile and keep going every day after their crap treatment, and everything that really goes with a cancer diagnosis.

But what gripes me about this facebook trivialisation is that I don't see how it helps anyone.

Why does making a sexually suggestive comment raise awareness of breast cancer? Why do we need to raise awareness of breast - or any other - cancer?

What we need to do is generate a little more knowledge and empathy.

There is nothing funny or light-hearted about being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease.

Openness, honesty, and supporting friends seems to me to be a far better way to go.

Three friends come to mind immediately - one who has set up a facebook support group for cancer survivors and caregivers, another, who has posed for photographs bald and naked. Another has used her talented skills to help other women with chemo problems find the right wigs while they are going through hair loss.

To me, that is what raising awareness of cancer is about.


Shabnam said...

I completely agree with most your post but what did you mean by "You can do anything with statistics"? The two pieces of information that you quoted are not at all contradictory.

roughseasinthemed said...

I meant, somewhat tongue in cheek that you can basically find a statistic to prove whatever point you want to make. Indeed the two sets of stats I quoted are not remotely related, let alone contradictory.

There are a whole load of stats for breast (and other) cancers, it really depends on what point you choose to make. Mine in this instance was that it is a common cancer. But I doubt anyone, apart from people who like ploughing through figures, is particularly interested in reading more than one or two sets of stats at the most.

Plus, people are so prone to misreading and misinterpreting them. I remember a colleague talking about breast cancer with two other health service professionals, and their conclusion was that one of them would get breast cancer based on the 1 in 3 stat. A good and classic example of how stats can so easily be misunderstood.