It’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month—and pink is exploding around us virtually everywhere! And because it is the month of awareness, media relations people are working overtime to get stories about new breast cancer research into the news. Some of these stories will have substance. Others will be merely hype. So, as you listen to these stories, remember to be a skeptical consumer of health news, ask questions, and remember the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if you’re in need of substance and sustenance, please tune in and watch me on the TODAY show on Friday, October 8, for a discussion about breast cancer truths and misconceptions. You can submit your questions that you’d like me to answer on the show here.

If I sound like a naysayer, it’s because that’s how this month now makes me feel. As I told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times last week, I really do think that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was helpful when it was first established. But at this point I believe it has outlived its usefulness.

For one thing, how much more “aware” do we think women can be? It’s gotten to the point where awareness campaigns are now being targeted at teenagers. Do we really think that telling teens about breast cancer is going to do anything to reduce the number of deaths we have each year from breast cancer?

Secondly, all of the awareness campaigns seem to reiterate the same message: the best prevention is early detection. But early detection is not prevention. It’s finding a cancer that’s already there. And while the idea of finding breast cancer early might make you feel like you have some control over breast cancer, it doesn’t address what we now know about how cancer develops.

We used to think that all cancers started out small and grew at the same pace, so that if we caught the cancer early it wouldn’t metastasize. We now know that’s not the case. There are, in fact, many different types of breast cancer. There are some tumors that grow so slowly that even if we left them inside a woman’s breast they would never go on to do any harm. And there are others that spread so quickly that they have metastasized to other parts of the body before you could feel a lump in your breast or the tumor could be seen on a mammogram. The problem is that we don’t know how to tell them apart. This means that there are some women who get aggressive treatment who don’t need it, and others for whom are “early detection” efforts have failed.

What we need to do is focus on what causes breast cancer—because if we can find the cause, we can prevent people from getting it in the first place. This is precisely what we are trying to do through our research program, the Army of Women and the soon to be launched Health of Women study! And this is the message that I want people to hear!

So, this October, instead of just buying something pink to do “something” about breast cancer, please support the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation by making a donation in honor or in memory of someone you love or by supporting one of our generous partners who believes, like we do, that it’s time to go beyond awareness and beyond a cure and end this disease—now!

Share →

4 Responses to The Pink Explosion

  1. Susan says:

    Dr. Love, thank you so much for all you do for finding a CURE for breast cancer. I had a sterotactic biopsy in 1/2009 which turned out find but I found it very painful. I told the dr that she have sedated me and her response was “you did fine”. I complained about how painful it was but she was dismissive. Never again do I hope I have to go through that again! I’ve been told I have dense breast tissue which makes me higher risk for bc. I read the article that came out today regarding the study by Kaisesr Permanente. What are your thoughts on their study? Should I always have an ultrasound when I have a mammogram. Thanks and let’s keep fighting for a CURE!

    Susan
    (do we have a great name or what?)

  2. Susan says:

    Dr. Love, thank you so much for all you do for finding a CURE for breast cancer. I had a sterotactic biopsy in 1/2009 which turned out fine but I found it very painful. I told the dr that she should have sedated me and her response was “you did fine”. I complained about how painful it was but she was dismissive. Never again do I hope I have to go through that again! I’ve been told I have dense breast tissue which makes me higher risk for bc. I read the article that came out today regarding the study by Kaisesr Permanente. What are your thoughts on their study? Should I always have an ultrasound when I have a mammogram. Thanks and let’s keep fighting for a CURE!

    Susan
    (do we have a great name or what?)

  3. Stephanie Meyer says:

    Yes, in fact I DO think that telling teens about breast cancer will reduce breast cancer deaths. I have been a public high school teacher for 11 years since I survived breast cancer (9 years before that too)which I got at the age of 33 after having a baby. Every year on the anniversary of my first surgery, I make a point of telling my students what happened to me. I have had many students contact me after they graduated to tell me that their moms now have breast cancer & to thank me for telling me what I told them. Oftentimes, their moms or whichever female in their family has breast cacner will contact me. I also warn them about using the pill (or any other form of birth control that messes with one’s hormones)since I believe the pill is responsible for my developing breast cancer at such an early age (b/c it caused hyperprolactinemia in me & I’ve met other women who’ve had the same experience though of course doctors won’t confirm). I also inform my students about the statistics concerning women’s heightened risk of developing breast cancer if they don’t have their first child until after the age of 30; I had my first (and only b/c I also had an oopherectomy) child at the age of 33 after hearing all my life that it was better to wait until one was “settled” to have a child–of course, nobody ever told me about the increased risk. Awareness and education in general for that matter are never a waste of time (in fact, there are still women out there who think that they can’t die from breast cancer or that flat chested women can’t get it). However, I do agree with you that the question of cause is an important one, though I fear that women will then be blamed more than they already are for getting the disease. Besides people telling me I must have done something really bad in my life to get sick, others blamed my cancer on my not breastfeeding–pretty ironic since, if I HAD been breastfeeding, I probably wouldn’t have found my lump and would therefore be dead!

  4. Terry says:

    I disagree with Dr. Love’s opinion that women in their 40s do not need mammograms.

    My cancer was found by my annual mammogram at age 48. Within 1 year I went from zero to Stage II breast cancer. No lump, no symptoms. If I had followed the doctor’s advice, I might not be here right now.

    I agree with Dr. Love that we need to find a cure for this awful disease. However, let’s not dismiss the need for awareness, education, and early detection testing. We need to get the word out and save lives.

    Women, get your annual mammograms. Encourage all the women in your life to get theirs. This simple test can save your life. I am convinced it saved mine.

    Ignore those doctors who say that women in their 40s don’t need mammograms. They are dead wrong. I am living proof.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>