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Breast cancer awareness month has been trivialised, and it hurts

It is the month of October – a month dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of breast cancer.

As part of the campaign, it is expected, among others, that discussions are held about risk factors and the early detection of breast cancer.

Particularly for those on social media, it should be a time for education and sharing facts and statistics about breast cancer as part of the sensitisation process.

Rather, in an interesting twist, some users of various social media platforms appear to have diluted the campaign’s message, making posts that could be described as having sexual connotations. Simply put, they have trivialised the breast cancer campaign.

Certainly, posts such as this, this, and this are not helping matters, especially as they are made in the name of creating awareness about breast cancer.

Have we sexualised breast cancer awareness month?

“Yes, there is some of that going on. In totality, we are achieving breast cancer awareness but unfortunately, some people coming up with things that are not too appropriate,” says Dr Josephine Nsaful, a General Surgeon at the Breast Surgery Unit of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana Medical School. 

It is not just about random posts on social media. Dr Nsaful is concerned about the virality of false assumptions such as “Sucking your wife’s breast prevents breast cancer.” 

These occurrences, according to Dr Nsaful, are not helping. She has called for decent factual content when discussing breast cancer.

“People should take the campaign seriously. Breast cancer is a serious issue, and it is not time for the sexualisation or trivialisation of the female breast. This is a matter of life and death, so the messages they put out there should be factual and decent,” she reiterated.

Joycelyn Yaokumah, a breast cancer survivor, is equally unhappy about the situation. She is convinced that the actions of some social media users amount to trivialising the breast cancer awareness campaign and has described that as “very unfortunate and disappointing.”

“Most of these people do not know how serious this breast cancer thing is,” she told DUBAWA Ghana.

“People are losing their lives because of breast cancer, and instead of creating awareness and sensitisation, the message is being trivialised; it hurts a lot,” Joycelyn Yaokumah expressed. 

“We want the sensitisation message out there. It is unfortunate, and it gets to me, especially during times like this when the whole world is talking about it. If they know what breast cancer is, they will not trivialise it,” the critical care nurse at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital continued.

Several other Twitter users believe that breast cancer month has been sexualised.

Despite these shortfalls, there are some positives as progress is being made with the breast cancer awareness campaign.

“The number of reported breast cancer cases is going up. We have also seen an improvement in the number of women visiting the hospital for breast screening,” Dr Nsaful told DUBAWA Ghana.  

In Ghana, it is estimated that nearly 3,000 cases are recorded annually, with one-eight of them dying from it. Academics such as Dr Nsaful encourage women to get screened to ensure early detection of breast cancer and increase chances of survival.

Breast cancer education

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. 

Symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A breast lump.
  • A change in the appearance of the breast.
  • Changes to the skin over the breast.

Some factors that could lead to breast cancer are being a woman, age, lack of exercise, alcohol drinking, smoking, and family history. 

When breast cancer symptoms are developed or realised, a medical officer must be consulted immediately for checks.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, social media is a potent tool capable of bringing change. As the world targets to reduce breast cancer mortality, online discussions about the health condition must be decent and factual to increase sensitisation.

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