With Breast Cancer Awareness Overexposed, Hard to See Many Patients Want Science, Not Pink


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Nothing has me making a beeline for the exit more  than disease awareness events– and when it comes to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the sheer overexposure of the disease makes me yearn to cover anything but it. I know I am not alone.  Most of us have been touched by breast cancer. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in the unlikely event that you haven’t noticed. I don’t see how you could miss it: weekend sections in newspapers ran tons of stories, and there will be an infinite number more. Pink ribbons sit on the top of the masthead of many newspapers. My local drugstore is even asking whether I’d like to round out my cash register receipt with a contribution to the Susan B. Komen Foundation. You cannot escape it.

I have been dreading this month. Unfortunately, the pink madness is driving people away. “I ignore the breast cancer stuff because I strongly feel they are hogging the limelight,” an independent reporter told me. “There are plenty of other diseases. My mom died of breast cancer, but I resent their intrusion for an entire month.” When I asked another colleague how she planned to get through the onslaught of news, she responded emphatically: “With earplugs and blinders.”

Fortunately, many thoughtful bloggers and advocates, like @jodyms, @harriseve, @MarilynMann, and Fran Visco are dedicated to educating the public about risk, science, and optimal decision making. I’ve also just discovered Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues. Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS), the groundbreaking women’s health collective turned 40 this weekend, releasing an updated edition. It has been a critical force, in pushing for fair and scientifically based women’s health care first in the United States, and now setting its goals on global health. I applaud them all.

I have been working hard on another post on breast cancer that will address some of the science or lack thereof that underpins breast cancer initiatives. In the meantime, I am curious what you folks think. IMO, the discussion needs to move away from the pink ribbon to considering far less frivolous issues.

But the larger question is this: If you could pick the top 3 concerns for patients with breast cancer, what would they be?


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