breast cancer

Beyond the Pink Ribbon: The Politics of Breast Cancer

breast cancerBeyond the Pink Ribbon

The Politics of Breast Cancer

In a March 2016 HuffPost blog article, Fran Visco wrote, “The National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) wants to know what the candidates for President of the United States will do to end breast cancer.” Visco, a breast cancer survivor of more than twenty-five years herself, has an impressive list of credentials when it comes to the issue. In addition to several other related roles, she is the first president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and Fund and, in 1993, was appointed by President Bill Clinton to be one of three members of the President’s Cancer Panel. Visco sees breast cancer as more than just a health issue. She asserts it is a political issue as well.

The NBCC wants to see breast cancer eliminated by 2020. (You can read more about Breast Cancer Deadline 2020® and see the active countdown at According to Visco, the effort is necessary because, “despite years of work and billions of dollars dedicated to awareness and research, there has not been much progress.” Visco also fears that, under President Donald J. Trump, the weakening of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) will leave many breast cancer victims without medical coverage.

The Pink Ribbon Campaign

One reason there is such great awareness of breast cancer is the Pink Ribbon campaign. Present year-round, the ribbon is ubiquitous during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is nearly impossible to shop, read a magazine, surf the web, or watch a sporting event without seeing the ribbon represented. On the surface, this is a good thing. After all, you don’t have to look far to find someone who has been affected by breast cancer, from tragedies to victories. However, some feel this worthy effort is eclipsing other diseases which are just as important and more in need of awareness, funding, and research than breast cancer.


NBC News reported the top four charities focusing on breast cancer had a combined annual revenue of about $256 million in 2007. The biggest of these, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, took in the lion’s share at $161,974,711. The Komen Foundation is so protective of its status that it has filed lawsuits against smaller charities, such as Cupcakes for a Cure, who use “for the cure” or similar wording in their name. In addition to charities, the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Defense combined to spend another $1,415.4 million on breast cancer research.


It was between 1990 and 1993 that breast cancer gained traction as a political issue and it shows no sign of abating. Few would argue that curing breast cancer is anything but a worthy cause but, when you pin on a pink ribbon or pull out your credit card to make a donation, take a moment to remember that it isn’t the only cause. There are many diseases both well-known and rare and we all need to remain diligent in order to see advances in treatments on the way to a cure for all major illnesses.