“Period, End of Discussion?” Not So Fast

An interview on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday between Terry Gross and Dr. Elisa Port, chief of breast surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, touched upon breast cancer screening, cancer spread, surgical removal of a healthy breast, genetic testing, and general changes in treatment over the years. Unfortunately, it missed the boat on the most hot-button issue of all. Evidence.

Pink Ribbon Purge

I’ve been researching and writing about breast cancer for so many years that I’ve accumulated a plethora of pink-ribbon-themed items. I’m finished with the baggage. Taking control of my surroundings has been very freeing!

Shaping Women's Lives: Our Bodies, Ourselves

"Our Bodies, Ourselves" is listed in the Library of Congress "Books That Shaped America.” Since its original publication more than 40 years ago, the book set a foundation for evidence-based, culturally appropriate information on women’s health, sexuality, and reproduction. Co-author Judy Norsigian says, “Gatekeepers no longer have the control they had in the past.”

The Unbearable Weight of the Pink Ribbon

Former writer for the L.A. Times Laurie Becklund, age 66, died on February 8th from metastatic breast cancer. As she lay dying, she wrote a scathing op-ed, published after her death, denouncing breast cancer 'awareness.' Indeed, most awareness campaigns overlook several key facts about breast cancer, facts that make a world of difference. #Metsmonday.

"Waiting for Cancer to Come"

"Waiting for Cancer to Come" weaves together women’s beliefs and experiences of genetic testing and its impact on their lives, families, and futures. The author shares detailed accounts of how women prepared for genetic testing, made sense of the results, and made decisions about what to do with the information and cope with the aftermath.

Independent Journalist Opts Out of Screening Mammograms

Independent journalist Christie Aschwanden explains in the Journal of the American Medical Association how she decided (without the help of her doctor) to opt out of screening mammograms, not just in her 40s but indefinitely.

Why I Voted for a Frack Free Denton

Denton, TX became the first city in The Lone Star state to put a legal limit on what it will permit the gas and oil industry to do within its borders. As a sociologist, the lead up to the vote was fascinating. As a citizen and resident, it was scary to see a politically supported industry focus its attention so squarely on putting the kibosh on informed enfranchisement.

Rethinking Pink: How This Work Started, and Why It Continues

It all started with Cathy. Then after Rachel came into my life I knew the critical stance I had taken on the culture and industry surrounding breast cancer would keep going until meaningful change became a reality.

The Teal Before The Pink: Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Although September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month you won’t see the White House lighted in teal, store shelves lined with teal-colored products, or many schools attempting to raise awareness of the disease. Pink has been the color of choice when it comes to cause support.

Decision-Making in the Midst of Medical Un/Certainty

When overtreatment enters the picture, public discussion tends to fracture as consumer choice butts heads with emerging evidence, existing protocols, embedded interests, and social forces. So it is with Contralateral Prophylactic Mastectomy (CPM) - the removal of both the breast where breast cancer cells have been found and the healthy breast on the other side.

A Call For Elevated Science and Honorable Dialogue

Amid ongoing controversy surrounding the possible retraction of two papers in an international medical journal, more than 500 people from 30 countries write an open letter to The BMJ.

Documenting the Invisible Scars of Breast Cancer Treatment

Some breast cancer treatments leave visible scars. Others, though common and devastating, are rendered invisible both by the medical frameworks that fail to document them and the public discussions that drown them out with rhetoric. Two taboo topics in breast cancer? sexuality and side effects. An anthropologist in Spain breaks the silence.

Is This Science or Censorship?

There are two parts to this story. The first involves a scientific debate about new guidelines for prescribing cholesterol-lowering drugs. The second is about threats to that scientific debate, as an industry heavyweight in support of the guidelines holds court in mass media to demand retraction of two research articles that call for a more cautious approach.

The Cause Marketing Dilemma

When a slogan is plastered on everything from fuzzy slippers to coffee mugs to promote solidarity and support a cause, consumers should consider five potential pitfalls in addition to mission match, company transparency, charity legitimacy, and the benefits of cutting out the middle-person to go straight to the source.

Kohl’s Cash for the Cure Pretties Up Breast Cancer

A Kohl’s-Komen campaign uses the breast cancer brand to create a cause marketing relationship that helps the company build a reputation as a good corporate citizen, deepen employee loyalty and increase sales. Does the partnership help the breast cancer cause and do any good for the real elephant in the room?

"A Breast Cancer Alphabet"

A straightforward, concise, and honest book that breathes new life into a breast cancer world too often drowning in symbolism, cliche, and product placement. Each letter shares a glimpse of how news executive Madhulika Sikka made sense of, and navigated, her breast cancer but also opens a new conversation about one of the most talked about diseases in American culture.

Are There Ethics to Tweeting Your Illness?

There is a major kerfuffle in mass media right now about two journalists, and a blogger with metastatic breast cancer. Guardian columnist Emma Keller and her husband, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, wrote opinion pieces about Lisa Bonchek Adams, a woman living with metastatic breast cancer who writes about her life on her blog and via Twitter.

Amy Robach Story Spreads Heartfelt Misinformation

After Good Morning America's Amy Robach announced that her on-air mammogram got her a breast cancer diagnosis, the correspondent's “I got lucky by catching it early” so “every woman should get a mammogram" message spread like wildfire. Between the emotional story and the ongoing mammogram wars, plain truths about breast cancer (e.g. biology and evidence) keep getting lost.

The Mammogram Myth, Alive and Well on "Good Morning America"

Good Morning America's Amy Robach announced that the on-air mammogram she had as part of the show's breast cancer awareness promotion, ended up getting her a diagnosis. It remains to be seen whether the mammogram will make a life-saving difference, but the fanfare surrounding her diagnosis adds to the confusion about the potential benefits and harms of universal screening.

Cause Marketing Is Not Philanthropy

The month of October fills the marketplace with pink-ribboned products and breast-cancer-awareness-themed events and fundraisers. Many people ask, “Where does the money go?” No one seems to know. In the midst of it all, cause marketing is cast as everything from the saving grace, the necessarily evil, to the pinkwashing pilferer. There is probably some truth to each.

The She-ro

As the central figure of the breast cancer brand, the she-ro's upbeat attitude, passion, and triumphant survival create a cancer-fighting aesthetic that encourages other survivors and their supporters to support a multi-billion dollar pink ribbon industry as they live, laugh, love, and shop “for the cure.” Those who do not fit her mold have no place in pink ribbon culture.

Breast Cancer, Concept Brand with Pink Ribbon Logo

The pink ribbon functions as a logo for a “set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose” the breast cancer brand. The brand capitalizes on emotional responses related to fear of the disease, hope for a cure, and the goodness of the cause.

Carcinoma: What's in a Name?

A working group from the National Cancer Institute suggests eliminating the word "cancer" from some common diagnoses. If patients and physicians are less frightened by the "C" word, they may be less likely to seek treatments that may be unneeded and potentially harmful.

Chemoprevention Is No Magic Bullet

The promise to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer by 40 to 50 percent sounds great, but if the actual (absolute) numbers are far less impressive—less than 2 percent—and these drugs promote blood clots, cancers, cataracts, and other harms, maybe it's important to read the fine print and ask some tough questions before getting too excited.

Life-Saving Drugs, Lethal Prices

More than 90 percent of the anticancer agents approved by the FDA from 2005 to 2009 cost more than $20,000 for a 12-week course of treatment. The oncology drug industry has grown from under $5 billion in 1998 to $19 billion in 2008 to $80 billion in 2012. Huge profit margins and returns on investment attract pharmaceutical investors. But at what cost to patients?

Patients, Patents, and Profits in a Genomic Age

While it is possible—maybe even probable—that every person will one day be genomically sequenced, there are limitations to how useful the information will be, and for whom? The Supreme Court considers the legality of patenting two genes -- the so-called "breast cancer genes." What will patenting these genes mean for patients, doctors, and the future of scientific research?

Rights or Rhetoric? Breast Reconstruction Awareness

Knowing one's rights as a patient is important. But as breast cancer culture came to focus on the upbeat, life-changing aspects of survivorship, it opened a new consumer market that uses the rhetoric of empowerment and awareness to commercialize almost every aspect of the disease.

Every silver lining has a cloud

What I've come to know about cancer is that it is a human evolutionary condition with unique biological underpinnings. But cancer is also an epidemic rooted in a society and culture that too often fails to recognize it for what it is, and what it is not.

The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. saw the value and necessity of refusing to be satisfied with suboptimal, and at times egregious, social conditions. Promoting truth, human dignity, and an enthusiasm for social betterment, King's legacy of "love in action" offers clear insight into the potency of love as a catalyst for social change.

Sexy Breast Cancer Campaigns Do Demean Women. So What?

Called a “bold and fun” approach to awareness, a new genre of breast cancer campaigns uses the sexual objectification of women to get attention. It works. But at what cost?