Is pink awareness enough to change breast cancer care in Southern Africa?

Last Friday, CBMH hosted it's annual Breast Cancer Awareness event.  I gave a talk entitled "Is pink awareness enough to change breast cancer care in Southern Africa".  The talk was well attended and we were privileged to have Dr Mutebi with us.  She is a surgeon from Kenya and is in Cape Town doing a fellowship in breast surgery.

The pink ribbon is worth a fortune.  I tried to find out how much it is worth but failed to get a reliable estimate.  Looking at figures of nearly $500 000 000 in the Susan G Kommen's financial statement gives an impression that it must be worth billions of Dollars. How much of that money trickles down?

In 2009, American Express launched a campaign: "The partnership between American Express and Breast Cancer Campaign, enables participating card members to redeem their points into entitlements for a cash reward which will benefit the charity." Julie Dennis-Litinger, Membership Rewards Partnerships, American Express

The reality: the card has to be used 100 x in one month to raise $1 for a cause (Pink Ribbons Inc)

In the USA, much of the money raised may not be used appropriately.  What about the situation here?  Over October, we have tried to follow up leads to see where the "pink drive" money is going.  We have traced a few and the ones we have answers for seem to have money being channelled into recognised NGOs.  I have not been able to find out what percentage.

We cannot, however, use the campaigns from the the developed world to think we will make a difference to the majority of women with breast problems in this country.

There are few statistics about the stage of presentation of women with breast cancer in South Africa.  I used figures from 2001, Joburg and compared them to SEER data (USA) and came up with the following pie charts.  (Interestingly, both sets of data were presented as "white women" and "non white women": the difference in the 2 groups probably has more to do with access to treatment rather than race).

In this series, nearly 80% of non white women in S Africa present with stage 3 and 4 breast cancer.I accept that the data is old and the situation may have improved.  The fact remains that we see too many women with locally advanced breast cancer presenting to our clinics.  We need to think of new and innovative ways to create awareness about breast cancer in this and other developing countries an we must encourage companies to be transparent about their cause related marketing campaigns.  They should stipulate what percentage of their profits are going to the cause and exactly which "cause" it is going to.



A picture paints a thousand words

Last Wednesday, I went to the official start of the PLWC photographic  exhibition.  Opening remarks were from the MEC for Health Theunis Botha.  He drew inspiration from stories of determination that made up the moving display.  Linda Greef followed with warm thanks for the many people who were involved in bringing the project to the public.

The installation reveals women's journeys through the diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.  It uses both photos and words in an easy to follow succinct manner.

The stories come from different angles.  Women talking about the lateness of diagnosis, the inaccessibility of treatment and the financial impact of the illness.  Each story is inspiring.  Many deal with acceptance.

The exhibition gives a voice to those whose stories are not generally heard.  The organisers, in my view, have illustrated how it is important to go beyond awareness, to make a difference to the outcome of breast cancer survivors in this country,

On Friday, 25th October, Christiaan Barrnard Memorial Hosital is hosting a talk at 12.30.  I will discuss the question "Is pink awareness enough to change the situation for women with breast cancer in this country".  Please feel free to join the debate.  Contact Michelle Norris at CBMH.

On Friday 18th October, the Mail and Guardian ran an article about mammography screening.  It was written by Dr Martinique Stilwell.  She has done an enormous amount of research and has written an excellent piece.  There are a number of other excellent articles that I have seen this month (please go to "worth a read page").

Let me know if you have come across other articles.


October again!

I have conflicted feelings about the value to the reading public of designating October as Breast Cancer awareness month.  Having said that, there are a number of collaborative ventures that have launched this month.  If we are to do anything about improving the resources available to women with breast problems in this country, we need a strong, clear collective voice from the diverse NGOs involved.

Cancer Alliance started a blog featuring daily breast cancer posts through the month of October.  

Reach for Recovery spent yesterday afternoon in the wind and rain decorating the trees along Adderley Street and Company Gardens.  The initiative comes from Pink trees for Pauline which started in the Eastern Cape.  Thursday 17/10/13, at 1300 there is an event at the entrance to Company Gardens.  Anyone interested in going should contact Elsabe Schlecter.  It is a great example of a collaberative venture by local NGOs, as any money raised will go to the Hospice, Reach for Recovery and Pink Ribbon. 

Company Gardens in October
Please let me know what you think about the pink!



October.  Breast cancer awareness month.   Is it appropriate to South Africa?

It's inital aim was to get women to go for a mammogram.October

It was started in 1985 by the Amercican Cancer society and the pharmaceutical company that is now known as Asta Zeneca. The story of the pink ribbon is a long one but the main players in establishing it as a world wide symbol are the Susan G Komen foundation and Estée Lauder.  It is probably one of the most successful examples of cause related marketing.

According to the financial times, cause related marketing is defined as "a form of marketing in which a company and a charity team up together to tackle a social or environmental problem and create business value for the company at the same time.  Typically, in cause-related marketing campaigns, a brand is affilated with a cause and a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the brand is donated to the cause."

Where do the funds generated by objects decorated with a pink ribbon go to? Are any of the funds directed to South African groups?  Please let me know what objects you have seen with the pink ribbon on and, if possible, tell me where the money raised is going.