Not all cancers are black, white, blue, pink – some are very grey



Over the last few months, I’ve seen quite a few posts entitled “Not all Cancer is pink”.  I suspect it’s a reference to the ubiquitous publicity that many women’s cancer-related advocates, bloggers and organisations attract. Although, whether this is publicity that reflects reality or actually works, is another thing

Those who use this phrase are perhaps concerned there is an imbalance and inherent unfairness in the distribution of support and are frustrated that their own cancer does not fare as well publicly? I share that frustration, however, I take my hat off to the battalions of advocates, bloggers and organisations who work very hard for breast and the various gynaecological cancers whether they push pink or not – and for the record, they don’t all push or even agree with the ‘pink’ thing, some of them find the pink stuff quite wrong (read here).

I’ve even seen this term used within my own community and it’s what has prompted me to write this post. “Not all cancer is pink ….. etc” is one of the worst example of NET awareness I’ve seen (…… and I see terrible examples almost daily). This is clearly an attempt to tie in the well-known ‘pink’ to the not so well-known ‘black and white’.  The latest one about a patient who also has breast cancer being described as a ‘pink zebra’ makes me physically sick, in fact anything related to ‘zebra‘ causes me anxiety.  Notwithstanding the potential for upsetting hard-working women’s cancer organisations and the fact that those in the NET community who push the pink ‘insult’, do not have a corresponding ‘Not all cancer is blue’ article, I also think we might be missing a trick.

And here’s the trick which is my alternative view on where we should be focused – Not all Cancer is black and white and nothing in cancer is ever black and white.  As I don’t want to indulge in ‘Cancer Olympics’ (it can backfire), I’m clearly talking about the context of the phrase ‘black and white’ rather than the ribbon colours.

Let me explain my logic.  There are two sides to most people’s experience or perception of cancer.  Firstly, symptoms appear, a diagnosis is made, treatment is applied and if it works, the patient will hopefully go into remission after a period of time, normally 5 years.  The other side is that sadly, some people may not survive the ordeal and that even applies to certain so-called ‘pink’ cancers (metastatic breast cancer for example). Clearly, there are variations of my very simple binary explanation, but these two outcomes are very common scenarios.

However, many cancers (including my own Neuroendocrine Cancer) are often silent, produce vague symptoms, are difficult to diagnose, treatment plans can be a challenge, most metastatic patients and many with other stages will never really be cured, and will need lifelong support (another challenge we need to focus on).  Clearly, there are also variations on this theme but with many scenarios and different outcomes.  Neuroendocrine Cancer has many ‘grey’ areas.  That is the REALITY, and no number of animal-themed painted fingernails will change that.

Not all cancer is pink, that’s true. However, not all cancer is ‘black and white’ – some can be extremely ‘grey’. If we want more attention, let’s learn from other cancer awareness activities instead of attacking their colours.  Lesson No 1 – they don’t use animals as icons because people won’t take them seriously.

In fact, it’s at least 50 shades of grey!

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7 thoughts on “Not all cancers are black, white, blue, pink – some are very grey

  • Ellen Dunn

    Interesting article Ronny. I am a person that has worn both the pink and now the gray hat. I have a pretty rounded view of this issue. NETS is coming out of the closet and is still a newbie. Our time is coming because this disease is on the upswing. We need to keep pushing forward just like the pink ladies have done. I resent no one with cancer and I am not a zebra. Good talk!

  • Márcia M R R Pires

    Very interesting this observation. In October in my country , Brazil , ( do not know which other more) there is a large media campaign and public health agencies about breast cancer: is the ” Pink October” . As ridiculous as it sounds, I found myself with a certain envy of patients who have cancer as reported , studied, researched . And MY rare carcinoid of the stomach with liver metastasis ?? Nobody cares? Only I have this disease then it’s my problem ?? No one bothers to search , to discover new drugs, treatments for a rare disease that does not estimable profit ???
    I know it’s pathetic, is rock bottom even envy other people’s cancer , but sometimes we feel so lonely in our misfortune that by this kind of thinking stupid torments us . Unfortunately…

    • Thank you for your comment Marcia. I share your frustration and Oct is indeed the month (the whole month) for Breast Cancer Awareness. For them this is a great thing. I do sympathise that there are not many patients in Brazil with NET Cancer (perhaps there are more but are misdiagnosed?). NET Cancer needs more awareness which is one of the reasons for my blog – for me every day is NET Cancer Day and we need to focus on the ‘grey’ aspects of our cancer as an awareness tool. I hope you will support my posts going forward.

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