This Cancer Survivor’s TikTok Shows Why Some Breast Cancer Awareness Slogans Are Kind Of Offensive

“The fact that I can’t point out one issue, which is the sexualization of breast cancer, without it becoming a bigger political issue is crazy to me,” said Bond, who’s also an actor and writer.

After all, you don’t see any “Save the Balls” shirts worn in April for Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Not to mention many of these phrases exclude men and trans and nonbinary individuals who develop breast cancer. It’s estimated that 2,710 men in the US will be diagnosed with the disease this year, including 530 who will die.

But it’s less about an individual’s decision to promote these slogans, Bond said, and more about companies profiting off of people’s pain in what has come to be known as “pinkwashing.”

The term was coined in 2002 by the activist organization Breast Cancer Action and is used to call out companies that promote the famous pink ribbon symbol or pink products without ensuring enough or any proceeds go to breast cancer programs and research or that their products are actually safe for breast cancer patients.

In all, the trend has contributed to a general lack of awareness that still persists despite breast cancer being one of the most well-known diseases out there.

“Everyone is aware that breast cancer exists. What people aren’t aware of are the realities of the disease and what it would take to actually reach a cure,” Bond said. “That’s where the disconnect is, and that’s what offends me.”

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in women in the US after lung cancer, and there are more than 3.8 million survivors in the US alone.

Although breast cancer death rates have dropped 43% since 1989 thanks to treatment and screening advancements, the decline has slowed in recent years despite the large movement to raise awareness and funds. It’s estimated that more than 43,000 women will die of the disease this year, and that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime.

Healthcare is often extremely difficult to navigate as a cancer patient; battles with insurance companies to approve lifesaving treatments, which aren’t guaranteed to work, are common. And breast cancer funds are notoriously skewed. Only about 2% to 5% of money raised for research goes to studies of metastatic breast cancers (stage 4), which aren’t considered survivable and kill about 40,000 men and women each year.

Breast cancer is also much more than just boobs. Many young women experience early menopause as a result of treatments like chemotherapy, which can bring about physical and emotional challenges such as infertility, fatigue, hair loss, problems with sex and intimacy, long-term nerve damage, sleep issues, cognitive dysfunction, and more.

“There’s just a whole identity crisis that comes in hand with the entire chemistry of your body changing that I think people don’t understand,” Bond said.

Ask anyone why they think we should “save the tatas” and they’ll say it’s because of early detection, Bond said. But early detection doesn’t save boobs, it saves lives.

In fact, many people who find their cancer early opt to have one or both breasts removed to avoid the cancer coming back after treatment or spreading to other parts of the body. According to the American Cancer Society, people whose breast cancer is detected early have a five-year survival rate of 99%.

Some people who inherit the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes from their parents — which is linked to a 70% lifetime risk of breast cancer, as well as an increased risk of ovarian cancer — can also choose to get the procedure as a preventive measure. Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate are two famous women who had BRCA genes and had double mastectomies to either prevent or treat breast cancer.

Heather Perkins, deputy director of Breast Cancer Action, was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer at 34 years old after six years of trying to convince doctors that something just wasn’t right with her health.

Her healthcare providers dismissed her concerns, telling her repeatedly that she couldn’t have cancer because she was too young and healthy and had no family history of the disease. (About 85% of breast cancers occur in people without a family history.)