American Cancer Society funds research that helps locally
The month of October is always awash in pink to support prevention and research for breast cancer. Ribbons can be found in almost every product line at almost every store, from shower gel to stationary, and from tattoos to men’s running shoes.
But sometimes the thought comes to mind: where does all the money go that we contribute to breast cancer?
The breast cancer business brings in nearly $6 billion each year and is one of the most popular fundraisers because the disease touches so many Americans – nearly one in eight women, or 12 percent, will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.
In North Carolina, the mortality rate for breast cancer is about 24 percent. According to a report from the National Breast Cancer Coalition, nearly 290,000 women and 2,190 men are expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year.
The report also reveals that breast cancer mortality has been slowly declining, with 119 women deaths each day in 1991 and 108 per day so far this year.
“If we continue making progress at the current rate, it could take a few centuries to end breast cancer. These are not merely statistics, they represent millions of lives. These losses are unacceptable,” the report says.
Other organizations, such as Breast Cancer Action, agree, saying it’s important for consumers to pay close attention to see that the products they buy with pink ribbons are actually supporting breast cancer research.
For example, the Better Business Bureau recently warned consumers against making donations to The Breast Cancer Society, Inc., claiming the Arizona-based company gives more than 85 cents of every dollar in donated cash to pay the charity’s fundraising costs in 2010, with less than a nickel going directly to benefit cancer patients and their families.
Such organizations tout that eliminating breast cancer will come down to less than just buying everyday products with a pink ribbon and more about funding science behind research.
But others say the money donated to them goes right back into helping cancer patients locally.
One of the most prominent breast cancer fundraising presences in Western North Carolina is the American Cancer Society. Each year, hundreds of people gather for a number of the society's most popular events such as Relay for Life in May and the upcoming Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K Saturday in Pack Square.
In 2011, Asheville's Relay for Life program raised more than $100,000 for the ACS alone.
Forty cents out of each dollar donated to the American Cancer Society goes back into cancer prevention and protection services.
The ACS heavily promotes prevention, reminding women of the importance of yearly mammograms, especially after age 40.
The society offers an abundance of programs locally for breast cancer patients including transportation assistance to and from treatment, free lodging for travel, free wigs and assistance with side effects, emotional support programs such as Reach to Recovery that connect newly diagnosed patients with survivors, education classes such as I Can Hope and Look Good Feel Better, a program that provides trained cosmetologitsts to help patients with skin and hair.
“We’re the largest funder of cancer research and obviously the research done benefits future patients as well,” said Kari Dahlstrom, regional director of marketing communications for the American Cancer Society in Charlotte. “People could donate their money and say they want it to go to breast cancer, but we don’t take specifically for the individual programs.”
The society currently contributes to one in three cancer researches every year, with 46 people winning Nobel Peace Prizes for their efforts. It has even funded the discovery of at least two important breast cancer treatments called Tamoxofin and Gleevec.
The BBB offers the following advice to consumers considering donating to breast cancer charities:
- If you are solicited by a telemarketer, ask the names of both the fundraiser making the call and the charity he or she is representing. Ask how much of your contribution goes to the charity and how much is retained by the fundraiser.
- If you are solicited by mail, understand that a portion of your contribution may go to the for-profit company assigned to run the campaign. Call the fundraiser or charity and ask how much of your money will be going to the charity.
- Contact the charity directly to find out how it uses donations from the public. Will it go to direct aid to families, to buy medical supplies, for education or for research?
- Check out the charity through the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance through www.give.org or www.bbb.org. Another useful website, called Charity Navigator, gives information about how charities donate money.