Yesterday women across the world decided to post their bra colors on facebook to raise awareness for breast cancer. I had no idea this was happening beforehand, and then I logged onto facebook and there it was. But a chain email was apparently sent around that read:
Some fun is going on . . . just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of breast cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before people wonder why all the girls have a color in their status. Haha.
In theory, it’s a nice idea, as long as with the color of their bras women also post something at least alluding to breast cancer. But from the sound of the email, and from the fact that a significant number of women just posted their bra colors, I think the trend turned out less about awareness and more about drawing attention to yourself. Which, in itself, is fine, except for all the women who have actually experienced breast cancer and now are left without breasts.
Take my mom, for example: she had breast cancer a couple of years ago, had a masectomy, and is completely fine now, with quite a few scars left over. I told her about the facebook trend, and she was very much insulted: why remind women without breasts of what they are missing, just for kicks? Apparently, some breast cancer survivors made their status things like “nothing” as a reminder that some women don’t even own bras because they unfortunately no longer have anything to put in them.
I don’t think that the facebook trend was started with the intention of insulting breast cancer survivors, and I think that to a certain extent, it did have some positive impacts. The fact that the number of fans on the Susan G. Komen facebook page went from 135 to over 135,000 on Friday shows how facebook is the perfect medium for spreading breast cancer awareness. However, it needs to be the right kind of awareness; as this article explains, so much of awareness has become talking about the concept of breast cancer, rather than about issues and concepts that will actually help women. What does wearing pink actually do to stop breast cancer?
So, in the spirit of awareness, I’ll share a little fact that most of you probably don’t know. Women who are not already considered to be at a high risk for breast cancer are supposed to get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years in order to detect tumors that cannot be felt, in addition to performing breast self-exams, and insurance in 20 states are required to pay for them. But here’s the sad part: for women with high density breasts, mammograms have less than a 50% detection rate for early breast cancer, as opposed to the 70% for breasts in general. Even worse, women with high-density breasts are 4 times more likely to develop breast cancer than other women. And many women (like my mother) do not know that they have high density breasts, and that they should therefore be getting other more expensive types of screening (sonograms, mri’s, things that insurance doesn’t like to pay for) until it is too late. High density breasts, as a single factor for breast cancer, is not currently a qualification for insurance paying for MRI’s and sonograms. For more information, see here. These facts may not have the “ah” factor that bra color does, but sharing them with other people holds a power that is much greater, the power to save lives.
And what does all of this have to do with Judaism, you ask? Pikuach Nefesh, the idea that we can do almost anything to save a life. So the next time someone starts talking/facebooking about breast cancer awareness, spread awareness of things that will actually help women and potentially save lives.