Kathleen K. Strosser has been living with Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer since April, 2009. She is currently on a new chemotherapy agent approved just this past February. Kadcyla (Genentech) is a combination of herceptin and emtansine, and has far fewer side effects than many other chemotherapies. Kate is hopeful that continued research will find an answer to stop the metastatic process and allow her to spend many more years with her children and grand-daughters. We asked Kate to guest post on The IBC Network as she has first hand seen the benefit of research, as the current treatment holding her cancer at bay was until recently called TDM1 , now know as Kadcyla approved February 2013. Thank you Kate for your post, The IBC Network.
Hold the Pink, Take Out Breast Cancer by Kate Strosser
Had enough pink this month? Tired of the endless requests for money for “a cure”? Are you seeing pink ribbons in your dreams? If so, join the ever-growing group of women who are very aware of breast cancer and very sick of all the pink hype. What started as a good faith effort to educate the public about the risks of an all too common disease has turned into a sea of pink commercialism, feel good walks, and even the sexualizing of breast cancer (save the tatas; save second base etc). Meanwhile, after over twenty years of pink ribbon campaigns, 40,000 women and men continue to die each year from breast cancer.
Remember the Yoplait send in the foil cap campaign? In 2008 the campaign “Save Lids, to Save Lives” yielded $5.9 million and only $1.5 million for breast cancer. It would have done more good if we skipped buying yogurt and sent money directly to our charity of choice. The prevalence of pink merchandise is easy to spot. How much money is actually donated and where it is spent is not, however. Nor is it easy to find out. One women’s athletic clothing company advertised pink gear this month. When pressed by a breast cancer patient, they finally admitted that none of the profits are set aside for breast cancer organizations.
Another problem is the perception of the major media organizations. If all you listen too are the interviews of celebrity breast cancer survivors, then you believe that all women triumph over the disease. They not only survive but they are better for the experience. How about the statistics that breast cancer deaths are falling rapidly? This is a statistical sleight of hand. More women getting mammograms equals more early stage detection equals less morbidity. The women with metastasized breast cancer who die is maddeningly about the same as thirty years ago. And those detected with early stage cancers like DCIS have a 30% recurrence rate. Worse yet, about half of those women don’t need treatment because they will never develop invasive cancer. They get treated just the same however, because we don’t know how to tell the difference between those who will and those who won’t.
So what’s a gal (or guy) to do? First, if you are not already aware of the signs of breast cancer, educate yourself. Some aggressive forms of the disease like Inflammatory Breast Cancer have unusual symptoms and are NOT often detected on a mammogram. Second, become familiar with the organizations that are working to prevent breast cancer from occurring or to solve the metastatic disease process. No one dies from cancer in the breast – only from breast cancer that spreads to other organs or bones. Allow me to suggest just three of these: National Breast Cancer Coalition , The IBC Network (which is the site you are reading this article) and Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.
Third, skip the pink next October. Donate directly to organizations that actually fund research, not awareness. No money? Most women undergoing treatment would love a meal, a babysitter or a companion during treatment. Let’s get together and take out breast cancer for good!