The Elephant in the Pink Room

breast-cancer pink-ribbon prevention

Did you know that every 69 seconds, someone is diagnosed with breast cancer. Out of those 200,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer, 6–10% are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, the terminal diagnosis of the cancer spreading beyond the breasts, and a further 30% of those initial 200,000 will later progress to the metastatic stage. Out of the 40,000 people who die from breast cancer every year, 100% of those deaths are caused by the cancer reaching metastatic stage.

Now you might wonder, why haven’t I heard much about more about this?

Because metastatic breast cancer is an uncomfortable topic for the overly optimistic mood during the Breast Cancer Awareness month. In most cases, metastatic breast cancer patients don’t feel like they fit in. They consider themselves the elephant in the pink room.They don’t have those uplifting stories that breast cancer fundraisers love to show. Jeanne Collins of the IV League, a metastatic support group, points out the awkwardness in phrases like ‘let’s fight cancer in Pink Ribbons Inc the documentary: “Are they suggesting that people who died or didn’t respond to treatment simply didn’t try hard enough?”

Over at Think Dirty we are all for supporting breast cancer. Metastasis researchers believe that if properly researched, metastatic breast cancer could have less of a terminal diagnosis, and be treated more chronically. But lack of funding is holding them back. And we’re confused as to why there isn’t more awareness to this terminal cancer. In the United States, only 2% of research funds go towards researching stage four cancer research. If this is cancer is such a killer, how can we do more to support research?

Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE all the spirit in the runs, but we think it’s not supporting the full spectrum of this complex illness. It’s absolutely inspiring to see people will walk, run, bike, camp and shave their heads all to support awareness of the early stage breast cancer. Now what if we channeled that same amount of energy towards supporting the harsh reality of many toward metastatic breast cancer?

So ladies and gents, let’s take a step back and look behind the pink ribbon, acknowledge the elephant is indeed in the room. Let us all be more compassionate about the complexity of breast cancer and support these lesser mentioned charities that focus directly on metastatic breast cancer patient support and research.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer


Metastatic Breast Cancer Network

Chances are, they are likely the organizations that need even more of your support than the more well-known and heavily sponsored pink ribboned charities. To let out some steam of the rage towards pinkwashing, we designed a tee for you, get one to support Think Dirty’s mission to spot pinkwashers!

Originally published at

The Elephant in the Pink Room was originally published in Think Dirty on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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