Because They Care / Diseases

Cancer competition

Symbol of breast cancer awareness, pink ribbons were created by Evelyn Lauder in 1992 <br>Photo credit: Public domain</br>

Symbol of breast cancer awareness, pink ribbons were created by Evelyn Lauder in 1992
Photo credit: Public domain

 I like pink, don’t get me wrong.

I like the campaigns for breast cancer awareness: all those pink ribbons, 115 million so far.  Pink polish, pink dresses, pink hats, and more: successful marketing campaigns to connect ‘pretty in pink’ with breast cancer awareness, early detection, and treatment.

And why not?  In the U.S. alone, over $350 million has been raised to fight this often fatal disease that kills more than 40,000 Americans each year.

But in a place like the United States – especially in a place like the United States – there’s cancer competition.  Raising money to fight breast cancer is relatively easy – even sexy, with fashion showsraces for cures, and specially created pink products promoted for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October.

As a TV reporter, I found breast cancer awareness events appealing, visual – perfect for TV.  But what about other cancers?  Can you name the spokesperson or tag line for the colorectal cancer campaign?  How about endometrial cancer?  Gallbladder?  Pancreatic?  Ovarian?

Sadly, each ribbon color represents a different cancer – and these are just a few <br>Photo credit: Public domain</br>

Sadly, each ribbon color represents a different cancer – and these are just a few
Photo credit: Public domain


 Ovarian cancer.  It’s sadly ironic to me that the champion of breast-cancer awareness and creator of those ubiquitous pink ribbons, Estee Lauder cosmetics queen Evelyn Lauder, died yesterday at age 75.  Died of ovarian cancer.  Hmmm.

Did Evelyn Lauder know the subtle, early warning signs of ovarian cancer?  They’re tricky.  Was there significant research and drugs to help with her diagnosis and treatment?  I don’t know, unlikely. Lauder gave millions for such work in breast cancer, after her own early diagnosis in 1989.  Might she be alive today had there been heightened awareness – and fundraising – for gynecological cancers as there is for breast cancer?

What I do know is that ovarian cancer is one of dozens of lesser known ‘orphan cancers‘ – neglected cancers of research and fund-raising that don’t get the publicity play or media mindfulness that comes so easily for breast cancer.

You may not hear of them, but eventually you will:  in the obituaries.


In this place of national wealth and research – the United States – and in this place of extraordinary philanthropy – Seattle – could we harness all these competitive cancer causes – sexy, popular ones and not-so-pretty orphaned ones – harness them into one general cancer fund, shared?  Not just money shared, but drugs and scientific research as well.

It’s radical to suggest dismissing cancer competition, but so are the radical procedures used today to treat patients who might otherwise have had their orphan cancers detected early, or their diseases researched more deeply.

That said, thank you, Evelyn Lauder.  Rest in peace.Signature_80

Recommended: Gynecological Cancers (CDC)

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