Op-ed

Meta-what?: Look past the pink this October

You’ll see it on the helmets of NFL players, on grocery store packaging and on countless of ads from Susan G. Komen which cover your TV. The color pink will wash the world with prevention and positivity for breast cancer. However, for those with metastatic breast cancer the world isn’t so pink and positive. October is breast cancer awareness month, and it’s time we give awareness to the kind of breast cancer that kills.

Meta-what? Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), or stage IV breast cancer, is a cancer that spreads to another part of the body. The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network reports around 30% of breast cancer cases turn metastatic with 6% of these cases first diagnosed as metastatic. My mom falls into that 6%. There is no end-all cure for MBC and patients undergo years of treatment in order to live a normal, functional life with no end to their battle in sight.

Only 40% of Susan G. Komen’s research funding is focused on a cure for metastatic breast cancer.

“People with MBC live in increments of every three months because we’re anxiously waiting for that next scan to say we’re good,” my mom explained to me. “We hear the results and the cycle repeats.” According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rates for MBC is only 27%. These patients miss out on the countless survivor stories told throughout the month — a story they will never get to have.

Only 40% of Susan G. Komen’s research funding is focused on a cure for metastatic breast cancer according to their 2016-2017 annual report. The majority of their funding goes toward prevention and awareness efforts about a commonly known form of cancer. Isn’t raising awareness about prevention a good thing? Of course, but prevention can only do so much until the cancer cannot be prevented any longer when it reaches stage IV. Susan G. Komen has raised awareness about breast cancer, but they’ve failed to provid support for those battling MBC.

It’s easy to understand why many MBC patients feel excluded from the pink and positive narrative set around Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Only a single day, Oct. 13, is devoted to awareness of metastatic breast cancer and MBC is rarely mentioned in the TV advertisements and the countless 5Ks held during the month. The harsh reality of their diagnosis is forgotten about by the public.

On the other hand, organizations like METAvivor and Unite4Her raise awareness and funds for MBC as well as provide support for patients. Before you sign up for another Susan G. Komen 5K or purchase that bag of pretzels with pink ribbons all over it, think twice about where your money is going. Instead, support a group focused on MBC.

Remember the patients whose stories are not told during the month of October. Let’s celebrate those who have won, but not forget those who do not have the chance to. MBC kills 40,000 patients annually. Susan G. Komen prides itself on being “for the cure” — but, this October, let’s give recognition to research and fundraising for metastatic breast cancer so we can actually find one.

Aimee Padley is a third-year student majoring in media and culture with a minor in Spanish. AP884817@wcupa.edu

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