Ain't Nothing Pretty About October Pink Mania

It's October again. International Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Reams of pink ribbon material have been shaped into dainty pink ribbons to create awareness about the disease. Women magazines carry tender truimphant stories of those fortunate enough to have survived. 


Given the attention and resources directed at breast cancer, the public (you) understandably believe that we have made signicant progress. Sadly, that is not the case. Many organizations and public health officials continue to invest billions of dollars in promoting early detection and awareness campaigns as the primaryapproach to addressing breast cancer. We know little about how to prevent breast cancer or how to prevent deaths from the disease. (Source: National Breast Cancer Coalition: A Baseline Status Report)

   As an advocate and breast cancer survivor working in a country with poor national cancer control policies and public health resources, I enjoin you to start engaging in a paradigm shift debate about breast cancer.

   Ask: Why is it that so little progress has been in past 40 years since the introduction of the "early detection saves lives" mantra. Why are quantifiable year on year decrease in incidence and mortality rates - showcasing the effectiveness of the strongly promoted mantra - issued with every flurry of pink pretty ribbons?


Myth: Regular (routine) breast self examinations save lives.


Truth: The results of prospective randomized clinical trials have demostrated that routine breast self-examination (BSE) so not lead to a decrease in mortality from breast cancer nor do they find cancer at earlier stages.


1. Semiglazov VF, Moiseenko VM, Manikhas AG, et al. Interim results of a prospective randomized study of self-examination for early detection of breast cancer (Russia/St.Petersburg/WHO. Vopr Onkol. 1999:45(3):265-271 


2. Thomas DB, Gao DL, Ray RM, et al. Randomized trial of breast self-examination in Sanghai; final results. J Natl Cancer Inst. Oct 2 2002;94(19): 1445-1457





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