There’s a lot of talk about breast cancer awareness – slogans, t-shirts, ribbons, products, Facebook games, pink-lit buildings. The awareness mantra helps create fanfare, sell products, and generate interest in the breast cancer cause. Is that all there is to it?
What about the unintended consequences of the breast cancer industry?
- conflicts of interest
- lack of progress
- 40,000 deaths per year
- exploiting good intentions
- profiting from disease
The PINK White Elephant
A new campaign by Kohl’s department store in partnership with Susan G. Komen [for the Cure] is, thirty years after the donning of the age of breast cancer awareness, calling on consumers to start a conversation about breast cancer, a so-called pink elephant in the room. There are many flaws with this campaign, including the usual misinformation, commercialization, trivialization, and hype common to mainstream campaigns. Another problem is the striking resemblance to a 2012 campaign by METAvivor Research and Support Inc. — a major difference being that metastatic breast cancer has been marginalized for decades by the very industry now claiming to start a conversation about breast cancer. More »
Addition Of Screening Mammograms Adds No Benefit, But Causes Harm, Canadian Study Finds
Clamoring over screening protocols has started anew with the release of a large Canadian study confirming its earlier results that annual mammography screening did not reduce breast cancer deaths. Instead, it contributed to the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that would not have been life threatening in the first place. We’ve heard it all before, with varying degrees of belief, but there’s something different about this study and what it means for women. Not only did screening mammography fail to reduce breast cancer mortality, there is new evidence that overdiagnosis and overtreatment are major hazards for women of average risk. More »
Amy Robach Story Spreads Heartfelt Misinformation About Screening Mammograms
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.
Read more about the Robach celebrity story, the mythology behind screening mammograms, and why there are strong concerns about the role of screening in breast cancer.
Amy Robach Story Spreads Heartfelt Misinformation by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, Dec. 10, 2013.
News & Views: Mammograms can help–and harm by H. Gilbert Welch MD, CNN, Nov. 20, 2013.
The Mammogram Myth, Alive and Well on “Good Morning America” by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today “Essential Reads,” Nov. 14, 2013
News & Views: Breast Cancer Screenings: What We Still Don’t Know by H. Gilbert Welch MD, The New York Times, Dec. 30, 2013.
The Mammography Debate: To Screen or Not to Screen? by Gayle Sulik, ShareCare, May 20, 2013.
Factoids & Impressions from Breast Cancer Awareness Ads by Gayle Sulik, Oxford University Press, Oct. 26, 2011.
On Life, Death, And Social Media: The Keller Campaign Against Lisa Bonchek Adams
A pair of opinion pieces published by Guardian columnist Emma Keller and her husband, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, were treated on the internet as personal attacks on Lisa Bonchek Adams, a Connecticut resident who discusses life with metastatic cancer via Twitter and her blog.
Read more about the Kellers’s inaccurate and vitriolic commentary, what it means to live with metastatic breast cancer, and societal attitudes about life, death, and personal disclosure.
- Bill Keller’s Misguided NYT OpEd Piece, Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN), Jan. 12, 2014.
- Guardian Deletes Column About a Cancer Patient by Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2014.
- Cue the Kellers by Jody Schoger, Women With Cancer, Jan. 13, 2014.
- “Grief and Death in the Time of Social Media.” BCC member Jody Schoger interviewed on Al Jazeera’s The Stream, Jan. 22, 2014.
- On Cancer PTSD and the Double-Kellering of Lisa Adams by Lani Horn, Breast Cancer Consortium, Jan. 14, 2014.
- Are there Ethics to Tweeting Your Illness? by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, Jan. 15, 2014.
- Readers Lash Out About Bill Keller’s Column on a Woman With Cancer by Margaret Sullivan, The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2014.
- No Shame: Bill Keller Bullies Cancer Patient, by Greg Mitchell, The Nation, Jan. 13, 2014.
- On Live-Tweeting One’s Suffering by Megan Garber, The Atlantic, Jan. 13, 2014.
- Bill and Emma Keller’s bizarre pieces about cancer patient Lisa Adams by Daniel D’Addario, Salon, Jan. 13, 2014.
- Tweeting Cancer by Meghan O’Rourke, The New Yorker, Jan. 13, 2014.
- What exactly is wrong with the Kellers? by Christie Aschwanden, Knight Science Journalism at MIT, Jan. 14, 2014.
- Social Media Is a Conversation, Not a Press Release? by Zeynep Tufekci, Medium.com, Jan. 14, 2014.
- There isn’t a ‘right’ way to die. Journalists should recognise that by Marie Ennis-O’Connor, TheJournal.ie, Jan. 14, 2014.
- A Few Lessons About Twitter, Cancer And Publishing by Linda Holmes, NPR, Jan. 14, 2014.
- There is no right way to die by Bess Lovejoy, Slate, Jan. 14, 2014.
- Twitter Responds: Reactions to Patients Tweeting Their Cancer by Don Dizon, ASCO Connection, Jan. 14, 2014.
- Why an article on Lisa Bonchek Adams was removed from the Guardian site by Chris Elliott, The Guardian, Jan. 16, 2014.
- Cancer in the Age of Social Media by Anas Younes, MD, Cancer.net, Jan. 27, 2014.
The Beyond Awareness Workbook is an ongoing project that will be expanded to a full curriculum that is both clickable and available in its entirety as a PDF. It includes background to pink ribbon culture, trends in mainstream breast cancer awareness activities, and tools for action. More »
We are also developing a series of themed booklets (in color) for our Beyond Awareness campaign. The first 20-page booklet titled “Beyond Awareness” offers a brief history of the pink ribbon and the rise of national breast cancer awareness month, the development of a commercially focused breast cancer industry and survivorship culture, and key trends in awareness campaigns. More »
For our French speakers, the Paris-based organization “Au sein de sa différence” (ASDSD) developed a communications campaign to spur discussion of pink ribbon culture in France. The campaign has a booklet entitled, “Questions Roses” (Pink Questions) and includes an analysis and conversation between the french senologist-oncologist Dr. Dominique Gros MD and U.S. medical sociologist Dr. Gayle Sulik PhD.