Pink ribbons make metastatic breast cancer victims see red

The victims of metastatic breast cancer have a new organization called MET UP that will finally speak for them on a national stage. Beth Caldwell, 38, of Seattle, Washington, helped form MET UP after she received a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis and realized organizations like the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation have nothing to offer women like her with this truly deadly form of breast cancer.

When a women is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, it means the cancer has spread to another part of the body beyond the breast. But the vast majority of women with breast cancer are diagnosed without metastases to other parts of the body. In addition, many women have growths located entirely within their breast ducts (intra-ductal). Some question whether these internal growths would ever metastasize, or should even be classified as cancers.

Indeed, in the mid-20th century, before all the advanced, new cancer screenings and treatments, women with breast cancer could typically live another 20 years or more. In oncology terms, it means they “survived” cancer.

But for the relatively small percentage of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, the survival time averages only three years. And unfortunately, mainstream medicine has nothing to offer them.

Worse yet, according to Caldwell, many national cancer organizations shun women with metastatic breast cancer.

As I’ve said before, Komen for the Cure is particularly disappointing. In 2012, contributors gave $125 million to the organization. But just $38 million of that amount went to actual research for curing breast cancer. And of that $38 million, some grants weren’t even for scientific research. So now we know how Komen for the Cure really works: one-third for the supposed “cure” and two-thirds for “Komen.”

Komen is really good at meaningless “feel-good” publicity stunts that generate the illusion they’re making some kind of contribution toward curing breast cancer. But all the pink ribbons…all the silly pink athletic shoes…all the bumper stickers…and all the circular “races for the cure” (that end up where they started, tie up traffic, and cost taxpayers money for traffic control) have done nothing after all these years for the victims of metastatic breast cancer.

In fact, Komen keeps women with metastatic breast cancer off the podium and away from the spotlight at its pep rallies. Apparently, the actual specter of death is an emotional “downer” when it comes to cancer. They want to keep the public focused on the superficial, “feel-good” antics involved in dressing up a deadly disease in pink ribbons so that it seems oh-so-cute…and oh-so-curable.

But this ploy misses the whole point: to save lives. If all those pink ribbons don’t help women make it to the next football season…or the next run…they’re worthless.

Nevertheless, Komen keeps up its mantra about “beating” breast cancer. But it only includes women in its promotions who essentially had already beaten breast cancer from the beginning.  Their frothy pink promotions exclude the women who really need a cure.

MET UP likens metastatic breast cancer to lung cancer. Society blames the victims of lung cancer. And there’s a prevailing bias these victims caused their own lung cancer. For breast cancer, the women who have a serious disease are shunned because they might spoil the pep rally.

But the vast majority of men and women who get lung cancer are never-smokers or former smokers, including an estimated 75,000 women with lung cancer who never smoked a day in their lives.

When it comes to metastatic breast cancer, some try to lay the blame on women for following a bad diet or not exercising enough. But my Ph.D. research showed that adult diet and body weight have very little impact on breast cancer risk.

On the other hand, we never hear about the politically unpopular, but long-known factors that improve a woman’s breast cancer risk. Including getting pregnant earlier in life, having more children, being breastfed as an infant, and breastfeeding as an adult mother.

We have known about these preventative factors for decades. But demographic, economic, and social trends now take women in the other direction. (Of course, many other natural approaches can lower your risk of breast cancer and improve survival and quality of life with breast cancer, as I’ve reported in my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.)

The government has spent billions of dollars of your money on breast cancer research studies…it continues to push annual mammograms starting at age 40, even though evidence shows screening doesn’t improve mortality rates for the population as a whole…and organizations like Komen seem content to promote, and prosper with, the status quo.

Komen is part of the problem, not part of any real cure. That’s why MET UP is hoping for real change in the era of “hope and change” in Washington.

On October 13th, MET UP will hold its first major rally in Washington, D.C. (It’ not a Friday the 13th, so politicians may actually be in town.) At this “die in,” 1,430 women and men will stand on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol to symbolize the daily death toll of metastatic breast cancer worldwide.

Maybe the President will light up the White House in red (he’s tried all the other colors already) for all these women forgotten and ignored by the pink ribbon crowd.


“Cancer Patients Start Protest Group Like ACT UP,” Medscape ( 7/15/2015