2013: Volume 1 / Issue 1


Remembering BCC Member Marie-Laurence Waldelöf

Breast Cancer Consortium member Marie-Laurence Waldelöf of Paris, France died of breast cancer on December 25, 2012. In her tribute Cathie Malhouitre wrote that, for Marie-Laurence thoughtful communication was the essence of peaceful human exchange. Indeed Marie-Laurence was a smart, skilled, witty, and brutally honest woman. Her commitment to thoughtful thinking created a space for others to contemplate and grow. As we grieve the loss of our friend and collaborator, the legacy Marie-Laurence leaves behind fuels our commitment to continuing what we started.


An Interview with Samantha King, Author of Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Samantha King is an associate professor and graduate coordinator and associate director of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Her research focuses on breast cancer, corporate philanthropy, neoliberalism and the politics of health, sport and the body. King’s book, “Pink Ribbons, Inc., Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy” was published in 2006 by the University of Minnesota Press. The Canadian documentary, “Pink Ribbons Inc.,” is based on her book.


FILM REVIEW — Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Pink Ribbons, Inc.  —  both the book by Samantha King and the 98-minute documentary of the same name by Léa Pool –  helped to open many people’s eyes to breast cancer as the “poster child” for cause related marketing, “girlie” culture, and exploitation of a good cause by corporations and charities alike. On November 13th, 2012 The Alliance for Cancer Prevention in association with Tipping Point Film Fund hosted a screening of the film in London, UK. The lively discussion that followed ran the gamut from confusion to outrage to a sense of relief that others shared their concerns about the seemingly endless need to fundraise for breast cancer while pink ribbon industries profit, incidence rates rise, and “cure” remains an illusion.


Angelo Merendino, My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer

No one has portrayed the largely invisible world of metastatic breast cancer more compellingly than photographer Angelo Merendino. Angelo began documenting his wife Jen’s illness photographically shortly after her diagnosis in 2008. Angelo Merendino’s pictures eventually came together as a photo-documentary called, “The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer.” He shared the collection on his Website and in select venues while he continued to take new pictures and post them periodically on his Facebook page.


#BCSM, Cancer Advocacy and Education in the Virtual World

The advent of Web 2.0 changed almost everything – yet absolutely nothing – about the cancer experience. What hasn’t changed is the near universal shock, dismay and fear that most women experience when they first hear, ”your tumor was malignant.” What hasn’t changed is the emotional and physical toll, the financial burden, the threat to mortality, the long-term side effects from aggressive treatment. What has changed, and for the better, is the ability of any woman with breast cancer to talk about her experience, obtain information or support 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the interactive nature of Web 2.0.


RESEARCH BRIEF –“How a charity oversells mammography”

Professors Steven Woloshin, MD, and Lisa M. Schwartz, MD, of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, published “How a charity oversells mammography” in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) [2012;345:e5132] that criticized the breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure for exaggerating and distorting medical information. The researchers argue that, “there is a big mismatch between the strength of evidence in support of screening and the strength of Komen’s advocacy for it.” Komen’s 2011 advertising campaign “simply tells women to get screened, overstates the benefit of mammography and ignores harms altogether.”


RESEARCH BRIEF — “The Komen–Planned Parenthood Controversy: Bringing the Politics of Breast Cancer Advocacy to the Forefront”

Professors Lori Baralt of California State University, Long Beach and Tracy A. Weitz of University of California, San Francisco published a commentary in Women’s Health Issues [2012; 22-6:e509-e512] about the Komen-Planned Parenthood Controversy and the long history of politicization that preceded the incident. They argue that the scandal was largely presented in mass media as the first time political interests interfered with Komen’s practices. Far from being an isolated matter, however, Komen’s organizational decision-making about grants to Planned Parenthood is part of a longer political and economic history.


RESEARCH BRIEF — “The right trials”

Patricia S. Steeg, chief of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute, argues in Nature [2012, 485, S58a] that most people with breast cancer die as a result of metastases (spread). However, clinical trials are only designed to evaluate a drug’s ability to shrink established tumors rather than its ability to block metastatic processes. By design, the clinical-trial process sets up many potential metastatic-prevention compounds to fail. To have an impact on breast cancer metastasis, says Steeg, “the oncology community as a whole needs to commit to doing something different.” She proposes a detour from the currently accepted road to approval that uses a new clinical-trial design that is appropriate for metastasis prevention.


BOOK REVIEW — “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History”

Exhaustively researched and highly readable, science journalist Florence Williams’ latest book describes the remarkable and largely uncharted ecology of women’s breasts. Yes, ecology. It turns out that human breasts are in fact a complex and adaptable ecosystem, with a unique ability to tune in and respond to the world around them. Research has only recently begun to elucidate the implications of this ability. The adaptive marvel represented by breasts is a barometer for environmental pollution.


BOOK REVIEW — “After the Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors”

After the Cure” by medical historian Emily Abel and medical sociologist Saskia Subramanian is an important contribution to the understanding of survivorship, not as an identity so much but as a lived experience. it is about life after cancer treatment ends (if it ends) and the lingering or latent side effects. While some cancer centers have survivorship programs, most people receive treatment in communities without these resources. Abel and Subramanian explore why this may be the case.


Questions Roses (Pink Questions)

The Paris-based organization “Au sein de sa différence” (ASDSD) celebrates difference and takes a pedagogical approach to patient empowerment, activism, and awareness. For October 2012 ASDSD developed a communications campaign to spur discussion of pink ribbon culture in France. It includes a dialogue between french senologist-oncologist Dr. Dominique Gros and Breast Cancer Consortium founder U.S. social science researcher, Gayle Sulik and a video interview with Dr. Gros in Strasbourg, France.


Beyond Awareness Workbook

The Beyond Awareness Workbook includes: 1) basic background to pink ribbon culture, 2) key trends in mainstream breast cancer awareness activities, (including what is largely missing from these campaigns), and 3) tools for action that enable those concerned about the current state of breast cancer to learn more about it and to take an active role in promoting social change. The Beyond Awareness Workbook is an ongoing project of the Breast Cancer Consortium that will be expanded to a full curriculum.


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