Thursday, October 14, 2010

Changing our perception during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Anyone reading the cancer blogs these days is going to have run across a pretty common refrain - the pink campaign isn't working for all of us. While I recognize the value of educating the public about breast cancer, I am unhappy with the way the campaign plays out in stores across North America. And clearly I am not alone. Bloggers are blogging, loud and clear. Rethink the pink.

All of this discussion makes me happy, though. Perhaps we are on the front edge of a wave of changing perception when it comes to all forms of cancer.  Perhaps we are moving to a world where we devote as much time, or more, to prevention as we do to screening and treatment.

What follows are a range of news stories on prevention and the need for related education.
  1. BCAM is tired of the pink campaign. Instead, they want more money being channelled to breast cancer prevention. 
  2. A study out of Montreal examines the possible connection between breast cancer and traffic-related pollution.
  3. British scientists say genetic differences are not as important as lifestyle factors when it comes to breast cancer. Obesity and alcohol consumption - are you listening?
  4. Lifestyle choices and environmental causes - in May of this year cancer advisors to President Obama released their report stating that while choices like smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise cause two-thirds of cancers, pollution, radon from the soil and medical imaging scans also cause many avoidable cancers. The American Cancer Society questioned the report's downplaying of known risks and "restating of hypotheses as if they were established facts."
  5. I missed THIS in June. Researchers in Cleveland are working on a breast cancer vaccine.  The vaccine targets a protein found in tumours and is designed to prevent the disease with a single dose. It has worked in mice and the researchers have great hope it will work in humans because this protein is relatively high in tumours in both groups.
  6. Canadian researchers found that while consuming vitamin D and calcium in food did not protect against breast cancer, consuming vitamin D in supplement form did. They are calling for more research in this area. I can tell you that increasing my daily intake of vitamin D in supplement form to prevent recurrence is probably the single biggest piece of advice I have received from my medical oncologist. OK - that and managing my weight through vigorous exercise! :-)
  7. Finally, the debate about the value of screening mammograms heats up with this study from Norway. Let's not dispense with screening, but please let us not become overly reliant on it as a first line of defence.


  1. How do you feel about all the press desensitizing people to the issue of breast cancer? The add campaigns, although important for many reasons, can have the effect of softening the disease. It's okay it only breast cancer.. at least it isn't lymphoma...

  2. You know, I hadn't yet faced that side of the issue. What a thought. But I can relate from my own experience. Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I thought it had a much higher survival rate than I discovered AFTER I was diagnosed. Perhaps all the ad campaigns telling us "early detection is the key" lulls us into the belief that that is as good as a cure. Early detection for me wasn't from screening or self exam. My 8cm tumour didn't show up on the mammogram and my GP didn't feel it. If it hadn't turned my breast pink, I wouldn't have known it was there until it may have been too late.

    All cancer sucks. All cancer is scary. Let's support our researchers in trying to prevent and cure it in all its forms.

    Thank you for your insight.