Cancer is no laughing matter. AIDS on the other hand, can be hilarious…. But I digress. A friend of mine went in for a prostate cancer operation this weekend. The whole ordeal lead me to a painful realization: If you get a disease, you’d better hope that it’s one with a celebrity "march for the cure." Chances are that if Bono isn’t singing about it, you’re probably dying from it. Is anybody else as sickened by this as I am?
AIDS is still the most funded disease around (by the American taxpayer) despite its insignificance on the fatality radar and the fact that in the industrialized world it's entirely preventable. AIDS doesn’t just “happen” to you here in the U.S.A. You sort of have to seek out those high risk...activities. While countless people die of other more prevalent, non-communicable sicknesses, Hollywood has made AIDS benefits trendier than torn Levi's.
AIDS is getting a run for its money these days however, as breast cancer is quickly on the rise… But the rise isn't in incidence rates or death rates--it's in funding. Breast cancer gets more research per individual death than all other cancers combined, particularly more than the male equivalent, prostate cancer.
Granted, there are a few reasons for this. Though the incidence rates are comparable, prostate cancer does spread more slowly, so earlier detection is more common. Both diseases, when caught early are taken care of relatively efficiently.
Now let us address the ultimate issue that breast cancer concerns… Well, breasts. Who doesn’t want more breasts around? Women want to keep their breasts and men REALLY want women to keep their breasts. Prostates just don’t have that kind of pull. Besides, where would you pin the ribbon?
The sad truth however, is that breast cancer gets so much more funding because Hollywood continually raises its awareness in the public eye and by default, pushes equally pressing diseases out of sight.
Like anything else coming out of Tinseltown, this crusade is not based on any sort of science or even pragmatism--it is a knee jerk, emotional reaction. Should there be research for breast cancer? Of course. It just shouldn't be fed an inordinately large sum of research dollars as other more fatal diseases continue taking lives by the minute.
Yet, the people who are really getting piped in this whole deal are the diabetics. It’s a never-ending uphill battle for those folks to get medical funding. Firstly, diabetes doesn't sound nearly as sexy to the media as AIDS or breast cancer. Secondly, you're not going to see a troop of diabetics complete a charity march anytime soon. Thirdly, let’s face it, the image of a sickly dude going through insulin shock just isn’t going to sell tickets to an Elton John benefit concert.
I know that some dames are going to try and make me out to be the heavy, so let me be as clear as possible: I really, sincerely hope we find a cure for breast cancer and that it continues to get tremendous funding, just not at the expense of others living with their diseases in the shadows.
Wouldn’t anybody else like to see some more even-handedness when it comes to disease awareness? Are there any other folks out there who are sick of rich Hollywood celebs telling us which diseases are important?
I blame Sean Penn.