Breast cancer film eye opening

“Slash, burn, poison,” said Dr. Susan Love to describe the seemingly unchanged methods of treating breast cancer she has seen through her lengthy career.

This gruesome reality presented in the recently released Pink Ribbons, Inc., was used to counter the upbeat, idealistic perception of pink ribbon campaigns and unveil their corruption.

The documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc., screened at Waterloo’s Princess Cinema on Feb. 9, is based on the book of the same title by Samantha King, professor of kinesiology and health studies at Queen’s University. King, featured throughout the film, discusses the commercialization of breast cancer and the market driving the pink ribbon that has become detached from its assumed purpose.

Under the direction of Léa Pool, Pink Ribbons, Inc. assembles a cast of doctors, researchers and women that have or currently suffer from breast cancer to bring the truth of campaigns run by corporations including the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation, AVON and Estée Lauder to light.

These countless corporations that organize walks, runs, rows and even jumps “for the cure” raise millions for breast cancer research – but whether that is being utilized effectively is up for debate. Moreover, the focus of these fundraisers for many companies is the bottom line – selling more yogurt in the case of Yoplait — rather than effectively discovering the cause and a real cure for breast cancer.

The hypocrisy surrounding pink corporate campaigns is astounding. Ads by Ford Motor Company for their “warriors in pink” campaign targeted to those “fighting” the disease seem ridiculous when later scenes feature women who were exposed to cancer-causing chemicals while moulding plastics that would be used on vehicles.

Even Kentucky Fried Chicken, in partnership with the Komen foundation, attempted to run a pink campaign to fundraise while also promoting their grilled products. The problems with the pink buckets go without say and the campaign was put to an end after thousands sent letters and e-mails outraged by marketing ploy, regardless of the fundraising attached.

After all the pink marketing and the funds raised, which in the case of Komen amounts to over $1 billion, are not regulated in how or where they’re spent.

Author Ellen Leopold attributes the failure to discover a cure to the fact that it is more marketable and economical for pharmaceutical companies to find drugs that extend survival. Furthermore, prevention, which involves finding a cause, is not highly considered either, receiving approximately three to five per cent of all funding.

With the research that is done, Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade, director of the cancer risk clinic at the University of Chicago, explains that it predominantly uses white, middle-class Western women for its samples.

This means that different types of breast cancer – which Dr. Love also referred to their being at least five — are going untested because the demographics it affects are not the popular sample.

A shocking statistics sited in the documentary reveals that breast cancer is becoming increasingly prevalent despite the years of research and money put towards finding a cure. In the 1940s, the chance of having breast cancer was one in every 22 women; currently the rate of breast cancer is one in eight.

Looking again to the problem of “Slash, burn, poison” treatments that fail to cure, Dr. Love adds, “That’s what you do when you don’t understand it.”

Whether you’ve donned a pink ribbon, walked for a cure or simply have known someone suffering from breast cancer, Pink Ribbons, Inc. will be an eye-opener; not just for the sheer lack of understanding of the disease, but the public’s deception by marketing campaigns exploiting hope.

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