Pink is for Breast Cancer...

sisterSTAFF Blog

Pink is for Breast Cancer...

August 2, 2010

Pink is for Breast Cancer; Orange is for Women with Diabetes 

If you live in the US, it’s pretty much a given that you know that pink is the color for breast cancer.  It’s everywhere- on television, billboards, newspapers, and radio.  In fact, it’s even on the products we buy- from cereals to garden tools.  We even see men’s professional teams donning pink uniforms in support of women with breast cancer.  There is absolutely no way you could get through the month of October without knowing that it is breast cancer awareness month.  Why is it that we see breast cancer awareness campaigns everywhere?  Is it because it is the most frequently diagnosed disease among women?  Is it because more women are dying from breast cancer than from any other disease?   Is it because breast cancer treatment places a heavier financial burden on consumers, the health care system, and the government than does breast cancer?  It must be because of one of these very important reasons, right?

Wrong.  In fact, there are many more diseases that affect more women than breast cancer.  Let’s consider diabetes, for example.   In 2010, 750,000 women are expected to be newly diagnosed with diabetes compared to 192,370 women expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Currently in the US, 11.5 million women have diabetes compared to 2.8 million women living with breast cancer.  Regarding mortality, over 40,000 women will die from breast cancer this year compared to more than 116,000 women dying from diabetes.  The total cost of diabetes was estimated to be $174 billion in 2007 (of which approximately half-- 87 billion can be attributed to women) compared to $7 billion in 2007 spent on breast cancer treatment.  Indeed, there are many, many more women affected by diabetes than by breast cancer.  In fact, if you are reading this, it is likely that you have a female family member, friend, or co-worker who has been diagnosed with diabetes.  However, because diabetes is often viewed as a personal failure, many do not disclose their diagnosis.  Since nothing physical happens (such as hair falling out) to a person with diabetes, it is relatively easy to hide the disease if one chooses to do so.  Yet, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that diabetes is a very serious disease that kills millions of women every year. 

You may or may not be aware that November is Diabetes Awareness Month.  Obviously, it does not receive the same kind of fanfare and media support that breast cancer does, but it’s time for someone to change that.  I know that if enough of us come together, we can have a BIG voice!  It’s time for women with diabetes (and their loved ones) to stand strong together, support each other, and save each other’s lives.  We have the facts and statistics to back us up.  Diabetes IS affecting more women than breast cancer, it is killing more women than breast cancer, and it is even costing more money. 

Let’s make orange the color that represents women with diabetes.  So, this Fall, when November 1st rolls around, dig out your orange shirts, skirts, jackets, and purses—and your DiabetesSisters t-shirts that have orange on them.  If you don’t have a DS t-shirt yet, you can purchase one (and support the cause) here: http://www.diabetessisters.org/get-involved/buy-a-diabetessisters-t-shirt.  When someone asks you why you are wearing orange every day, explain to them that orange is the color that represents women with diabetes and November is Diabetes Awareness Month.  No doubt, you’ll catch them by surprise!  Tell them why diabetes is a special cause for you (Aunt Rosa had diabetes; my friend, Sandra, has diabetes; my co-worker, Jennifer, has diabetes) and share the statistics about women with diabetes—11.5 million women with diabetes in the US; 750,000 women expected to be diagnosed this year; and we will lose 116,000 women to diabetes this year. Encourage them to be tested for diabetes if they are over the age of 45 or if they are under the age of 45 and overweight.  Be familiar with the symptoms of diabetes: being very thirsty, urinating a lot, feeling very hungry, feeling very tired, losing weight without trying, having sores that are slow to heal, having dry, itchy skin, losing feeling in or having tingling in the hands or feet, having blurry vision, and having more infections than usual.  Finally, encourage them to support women with diabetes in any way they can.  It is up to each of us individually to make our own small difference in this world.  When the small differences are done as part of a larger group, the impact can be huge!  

 **Note: It is not my desire to take media attention away from breast cancer.  Breast cancer is, indeed, a devastating disease that is deserving of the attention it receives.  My only wish is to create the same kind of awareness in November around diabetes, an equally deserving disease that affects millions of women in the US.  In fact, I credit the breast cancer team’s superb marketing tactics and strong collaboration-building skills with their huge success in raising awareness and money for the cause.  I only wish that I could be an intern at the breast cancer office to learn how they do what they do so well.