Friday, October 5, 2012

Breast Cancer Awareness?!?

May I climb atop my soapbox yet again? God, I wish George Carlin were still alive. What would the master of identifying cultural and linguistic oxymorons (jumbo shrimp, military intelligence) do with Breast Cancer Awareness?

Breast Cancer Awareness? WTF? Who isn’t already aware of breast cancer? What we need is more money for research into a cure for metastatic breast cancer, the rates of which have not dipped at all. What we need is for people to stop pouring dollars into companies for pink products without asking if those companies and their products contribute to the increased rates of breast cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it makes me want to scream! When I see sites such as Fundraising for a Cure, with a portion of proceeds for pink trinkets donated to “breast cancer awareness and research” or how professional sports teams sell pink merchandise or cloth their players in pink, I want to scream even more.

I am marginally glad that Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton plans to wear pink cleats this Sunday to stymie his opponents with a bright color. But it ain’t about pink awareness. It’s about a real cure and sharing accurate information about breast cancer treatments, pharmaceuticals, mammographies, and fighting all the pink washing that seeks to overwhelm us.

I am tired of groups like the Susan G. Komen Foundation focusing on she-roes, those heroic women who fit their singular narrative about all powerful Wonder Women slaying the cancer beast. And, as Gayle Sulik, author of the excellent book, Pink Ribbon Blues, says about all the misinformation, some of it pushed by Komen, “It is now widely known that the benefits of wholesale mammography screening were overpromised. Rates of over-diagnosis (i.e., when a diagnosed tumor lacks the potential to progress to a clinical stage, or is so slow-growing that the person would die from other causes) are higher than previously realized.”

Sulik continues: “Despite the efforts of millions who run, walk, hike, bike, and raise money for the cure the eradication of breast cancer has become a figment of our collective imagination…For those who continually worry about recurrence, face decisions about prophylactic treatments, lack adequate care and support, rely on inadequate screening technologies, suffer the ongoing side effects of treatments, do not have access to the most successful cancer centers, do not experience the transcendence that pink culture demands, are not represented in the culture, and who fear for the future of a cancer ridden society, I implore everyone to take a step back to look honestly at the system’s outcomes, and to recalibrate. After all, we want the same thing. We want to be healthy, free, and with the people we love.”

Awareness, to me, is a superficial response by corporations, companies, businesses, agencies, or institutions to make them feel good about doing something and then sell their participation in order to enhance their brand and make more money.

Awareness is meaningless. The time for a cure, more funding for research, with an emphasis on metastatic breast cancer, is now.

Verna Wefald, my late wife, would have turned 48 today. She died from metastatic breast cancer on August 30, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Steven, I came over to your blog from your letter to Hope in her latest newsletter. First of all, let me say how sorry I am for your loss. There has been a lot of breast cancer in my family, including my sister who died of it at age 48. And I've been wondering lately whether I was alone in my anti-pink feelings! Those feelings peaked about a week ago when I received a solicitation from the foundation you mentioned, a solicitation that included the "gift" of return address labels - labels which I promptly shredded as I do not use them. What a tremendous waste of money by the foundation.

    Since I'm not in the scientific research community, my "contribution" to the cause is educating myself about prevention (including food that we consume and products we put on our bodies) and sharing that information with others. And doing so in, I hope, a way that does not blame the cancer victim.

    Your "What we need is for people to stop pouring dollars into companies for pink products without asking if those companies and their products contribute to the increased rates of breast cancer" really jumped out at me. That's what I'm about, not collecting pink junk!