To some people, November is now Movember. That is testament to how successful and pervasive this campaign for men’s health – especially prostate cancer – has become. (Blogger Sara Nolte has also chosen to write about prostate cancer during Movember.) Last month the focus was on breast cancer. The month before that, there were a host of cancers to choose from – eight according to this list.
I think there is a great deal of value in health campaigns that raise awareness of a disease or educate the public on how to prevent it. After all, most awareness campaigns either have an explicit or implicit message to donate to the cause in order to fund important research. Campaigns like Movember have raised millions for men’s health. In Canada, $15,000,000 has gone towards a genome sequencing project to develop markers in men with prostate cancer. That is only one project of over 1,000 taking place in 21 countries.
Awareness campaigns are a good thing, but when is enough enough?
During the month of October, I fell into the trap of liking a friend’s Facebook status. In response, I received this private message:
Maybe I am a spoilsport or am lacking a sense of humour, but I fail to see how this advances the cause. (And the typos don’t help either.) It doesn’t educate me about the disease, nor does it make me want to donate (having just been tricked). Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Shobita Parthasarathy shares some hopeful statistics in an article in The Conversation: “Breast cancer research funding has grown considerably. In 1990 the US federal government spent less than $100 million on the disease. Now the government and top private foundations spend at least $1 billion annually. And there has been a massive increase in mammography screening.”
But the next paragraph dashes those hopes. “But across the world, breast cancer rates have gone up right along with awareness. In the United States, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer has gone from one in 20 in the 1960s to one in eight today. While part of this shift can be explained by increased access to mammography, researchers also point to long-term use of hormone therapies and lifestyle changes. This year in the US, nearly a quarter of a million women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Mammography does not seem to reduce breast cancer mortality.”
Dr. Parthasarathy offers some valid suggestions for improving the situation. I recommend that you read the full article here.
In closing, I feel the need to loop cancer back to stem cells, given the forum. Just yesterday, Toronto, Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children issued this promising news release offering clues on how brain tumours, and other cancers, proliferate. If you would like to stay up-to-date on cancer stem cell news, here are some places to go for research papers and news.
And because this is Right Turn, I leave you with this amusing video that does double duty as a mechanism for fundraising and a call to action. Whether or not you think it advances the cause is up to you!
Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.
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