Politically Correct Cancer

My wife has just begun a battle against lung cancer (I don’t want to turn this thread into our personal struggles – a topic for another thread). But we’ve spent much time in the past few weeks watching TV from her hospital bed, and have been barraged with commercials for a 3 day walk raising funds for breast cancer.

We find this a bit depressing…my wife says she wishes she got that cute pink cancer, and not stupid ol’ lung cancer.

So first, a general question: why does each kind of cancer need to raise funds separately?

And second - given that there are separate fund raisers for different kinds of cancer, an element of political correctness has crept in. Who gets breast cancer? Women. It’s a cause that women (and everyone, for that matter) can rally around. Who gets lung cancer? Smokers. Those people are pariahs and get what they deserve.

From what I understand as not being a doctor, there’s not really such a thing as a single cure for cancer out there, since different types of cancers have different causes and treatments, which require different research into breast cancer than for lung cancer.

Because different cancers get treated in different ways.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up…

But men can also get breast cancer I believe. It’s just not nearly so common, on the order of 1/100 as much.
The big reason that Breast cancer has so much funding behind it is because in the vast majority of cases (not all) it can be caught early with proper screening. And a lot of cost can be averted, not just by the individual, but by society in general.

For the cost of one person going through treatment, they can catch any number from one to a dozen cases of it early through proper screening (I can’t find the cite - but that’s the number I remember being told).

Reminds me of the Canadian university which allegedly stopped doing fundraising for cystic fibrosis on the ground that CF mainly affects white people.

Anyway, I’m not sure there’s a debate here. Identity politics and political correctness are all the rage these days.

Lung cancer patients fight stigma.

It is true too that the rates for prostate and breast cancer are quite similar - though the progression of the diseases is very different. Prostate cancer typically is slower growing. Still, it doesn’t have the massive network of fundraisers and boosters that the breast cancer cause has, though it undoubtedly affects many families as well.

I wouldn’t propose treating cancers the same medically or in fundraising - but let’s not kid ourselves about how this looks. Maybe it is time for some of us to adjust our personal giving.

I’m not an expert on cancer, but I think that the same things could be said about skin cancer and colon cancer.

Yes, they can. My uncle, who is a thin, healthy manly-man and most definitely lacks what one would normally think of as “breasts”, had breast cancer, so I’d read up on it a few years ago. Men still have breast duct cells, which can become cancerous.

Very true, and recently there have been growing pushes for an increase in screening for them.

There have been major pushes for people who are 50+ to get Colon cancer screening, and for those with a family history to get checked at 40 or even 35+ on an annual basis.

The further south you go, the stronger the push is, typically, for skin cancer screening.

I don’t get it either, but I guess pink ribbons are attached to things like groceries and household items because women tend to be the purchaser of those items? And women are more invested in breast cancer?? It seems crazy how much more money Susan G. Komen rakes in than other orgs, or in comparison to the combined cancers of ACS.

Komen Contributions/races $227M

American Cancer Society support from the public $1B
[PDF] http://www.cancer.org/downloads/AA/ACS_Combined_Financials_FY2007.pdf

I think the pink ribbon campaign is a strategy to bring cancer into public discourse. When I was younger, it was whispered about, particularly if it was a “male” or “female” cancer (i.e., reproductive or breast cancer). One hopes that it causes more frank discussion of all types of cancer, and reduces stigma. That said, I’m sorry that your wife is ill. Lung cancer is tough and I do hope you are getting the support you want.

Because breast cancer survivors and their families got together and mounted a successful awareness and fundraising effort.

That may be, but one wonders why the line was drawn where it was. For example, wouldn’t the awareness and fundraising effort have had the potential to be much larger if it had encompassed victims of all kinds of cancer and not just breast cancer?

Plenty of other examples coudl be given for the same phenomenon. Why is fundraising for AIDS so much more glamorous than fundraising for diabetes? Why so much emphasis on autism awareness but so little for depression awareness? It’s clear to me that some people are getting rather wrapped up in their diseases. It becomes part of their purpose in life, their driving force. Consider a quote from this article.

“The entire lung cancer community”? A community is a group of people who live together or perhaps a group that chooses to share some aspect of their lives. A “community” organized around a disease seems like misplaced priorities. Isn’t the whole goal of medical care to either cure the illness, or to make life is as normal as possible despite the illness? So then isn’t viewing an illness as part of one’s identity basically achieving the opposite of that?

There are groups of raped/abused people, people who just share a certain traumatic experience in their past.

The goal of every abuse/rape therapist is to return them to normal lives, and to move on from their past experiences, however sometimes being with a group of people who have been through the same thing you have is just beneficial, it helps.

They understand you.

Re lung cancer it’s typically, fairly or unfairly, seen in the category of an "it’s your own fault’ disease. I don’t know what number of lung cancers are attributable to smoking, but I would imagine it’s pretty high. AIDS is also in this “you did it to yourself” category for many people, but tends to strike younger people, and is thus (IMO) gets lot more sympathy. Lung cancer sufferers are typically on the age downslope of life and in their 50’s to 70’s.

But different cancers have different screenings and different treatments. So if I want to raise money for breast cancer early detection and research - that money needs to be targeted specifically. Put it all in one pot and someone still needs to dole it out and create the criteria for doling it out - if I’m interested in supporting general cancer research, I’d give to the American Cancer Society.

(I used to work for the American Lung Association - which is probably one of the forefront charitable organizations for lung cancer. They aren’t sharing their fundraising with the Leukemia folks anymore than the Komen Foundation is sharing their funding with them. Its a dog eat dog world in charitable giving).

Hence my quote above. But considering the amount of suffering that prostate cancer has caused women (when their husbands, sons, fathers, grandfathers and other loved ones get it) perhaps they might be inclined to write a check for it at the same time they support the Komen foundation.

I wouldn’t want to take money away from the Komen people, but the case can be made that the prostate cancer charities and lung cancer charities need more - and maybe we ought to spread around our giving a bit when we donate.

Sure, and the question is (1) is breast cancer getting a disproportionate share of society’s resources; and (2) if so, why?

Sure, and the “breast cancer” dog seems to be eating a lot of other dogs. The question is why.

ETA: Also, is the government spending a disproportionate amount of money on breast cancer research? If so, it’s not a matter of charitable giving.

No, because as was pointed out, different cancers are actually different diseases. Their etiology is similar but not the same and their treatment is different. The reason Breast Cancer has the gravitas it has is because a bunch of highly motivated women went out and made a movement.

According to wikipedia, something like 90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. I’d argue then that most anti-smoking campaigns are in fact, largely anti-lung cancer campaigns. Given the billions that are spent in such anti-smoking campaigns, I’d say that lung cancer prevention is actually at least as well funded as breast cancer prevention.