What’s the Deal with All These Awareness Months—Besides Early Detection & Saved Lives?

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Movember and Prostate Cancer Awareness

In early November 2012, I wrote an article called “November + Mustaches = The Movember Movement,” about the growing (pun intended), slightly playful but ultimately dead serious  campaign that utilizes men growing mustaches during the month as a means to increase awareness of early detection and treatment of prostate cancer. Not only is Movember meant to raise awareness and bring information about the disease to public discourse, it also raised money for prostate cancer research to the tidy tune of $126.3 million in 2011. There are no figures available to give us any idea of the number of men who may have taken the organization’s message to heart and sought out an examination or blood test for early detection and saved their lives by doing so. Even if it were only a single man, the effort and mustaches would surely have been worth it to his family, friends and loved ones.

Comments, Anyone?

As with many blogs, individuals are allowed to make moderated comments about the articles they’ve read; comments on my Movember post included a mix of those expressing surprise at the hitherto unknown program and others praising the program and its results. Then, on Nov. 12, James Martell wrote:

“Goodness knows we need another “cancer awareness” cuase (sic) (or whatever you want to call it.) It does amaze me as to know (sic) many people get sucked into these so-called ’causes’.”

Aside from the fact that he would most definitely benefit from a National Empathy Month, let’s consider this opinion briefly. He obviously feels that either the cause is unimportant or takes advantage of people’s money and time. Despite the prevalence and devastating lethality of cancer, he bemoans, “Goodness knows we need another “cancer awareness” cause….” as if he, himself, is personally inconvenienced by anything having to do with public service announcements and campaigns. It’s obvious that no one has asked him to take part in any events in support of such causes, so the reader can be excused for some confusion regarding exactly how he is so troubled by such campaigns.

Awareness month ribbons

Chemotherapy Can Be Such An Inconvenience

October is devoted to breast cancer awareness, and the professional athletes of the NFL have begun to regularly play with pink shoes, cleats and towels. The referees throw pink flags for infractions and cheerleaders use pink pom-poms. These small actions raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. They also raise a question in the mind of a wife and mother of three children, one an infant, as she glanced at the television set as her husband watched a football game. Tina, busy with two little boys and one baby boy, had apparently been too busy for the campaign to register until the color caught her eye, registered as incongruous, and she asked her husband about it. At the age of 34, she then performed a breast examination for the first time, found a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks later. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation, suffered from the side effects of each, but the word “inconvenience” was never in her story. “Grateful” was.

Awareness Months

Yes, there are many causes of which members of the public would prefer to remain ignorant, perhaps magically believing that if they don’t know about a disease, they won’t be diagnosed with it. National Health Observances or “awareness months” are sponsored by the National Health Information Center for one reason: they save lives or help prevent needless injury or deaths. Can’t we continue to experience such an inconvenience?