News and analysis
October 14, 2014

Expand the Focus of Breast-Cancer Awareness

As the October pink-ribbon awareness campaign turns 20, it’s certainly important to acknowledge how the far-reaching effort has led to extensive advances in medical treatments and improved chances for women with breast cancer in the United States.

That said, traditional breast-cancer awareness campaigns have largely bypassed women in developing countries as well as women of color in the United States.

While women in advanced economy nations have higher diagnosis rates of breast cancer, women in the developing world diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to die from the disease. Poverty and misinformation keep women from seeking medical help and care. As opposed to the United States, where there is a history of widespread screening and easier access to treatment, women in developing countries suffer from a lack of awareness and resources. Even those who receive a diagnosis earlier can face delays in treatment because of dysfunctional health systems.

But it’s not just women in the developing world who disproportionately suffer from breast cancer. In 2012, Sinai Institute researched breast-cancer cases in the 25 largest U.S. cities and found that women of color with breast cancer were, on average, 40 percent more likely to die from their disease than white women. The disparity in breast-cancer survival within the U.S. translates to about 1,700 additional deaths each year—or about five more minority and women of color dying every day.

This is a problem, and it speaks to Pinktober’s inability to penetrate these audiences and raise awareness about these issues.

Going forward, the campaign needs to target and find those that are disenfranchised and communicate with them directly; faith-based communities may be a good place to start.

Pinktober must expand to generate awareness beyond borders and beyond class, something that the NFL and Susan G. Komen are poised to help do. Additionally, we need to expand beyond the month of October—this needs to be a year-round message, especially in communities where women aren’t going in for regular screenings and don’t know about the importance of self-exams.

Susan McPherson is a serial connector, passionate cause marketer, angel investor, and corporate-responsibility expert. She is the founder and chief executive of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social good. Ms. McPherson’s a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Triple Pundit, The Muse, and Forbes. She has 25+ years experience in marketing, public relations, and sustainability communications. McPherson founded and hosts the bi-weekly #CSRChat on Twitter.