When I tuned into the NFL football games this month, I thought I was coming down with conjunctivitis–or “pink eye”–because everything on the TV screen was tinged pink. Then I realized I was just suffering from the annual attack of “Komen Syndrome.”
As the month went by and I saw more of the NFL’s relentless promotion of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I realized something terrible about these rose-colored antics. Women with metastatic breast cancer (real cancer) are nowhere to be found.
Indeed, the crisis of metastatic breast cancer remains mostly invisible during the Komen Foundation’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the U.S. This serious form of breast cancer is actually incurable. And no amount of early detection can cure it.
So what exactly is all the “racing around” really about? And who does it benefit–other than the bureaucracy of the Komen Foundation itself?
The inconvenient truth is that no one ever dies from breast cancer tumors that remain in the breast. But when metastases occur, the cancer cells travel to vital organs, causing them to shut down. And that shutdown eventually causes death.
About 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are already metastatic at the time of detection. In addition, metastatic breast cancer can occur up to 20 years after a woman’s original diagnosis. And about 20 percent of early-stage breast cancer cases will progress to advanced, metastatic disease. But, sadly, early detection does NOT equate to a cure for these women.
Of course, the idea that early detection isn’t necessarily protective against cancer mortality is unsettling. Therefore, “Pinktober” promoters obscure this fact with all their PR hoopla. Their widespread promotions suggest that breast cancer is a problem that we can easily overcome, if only we wear the right shoes and participate in enough pep rallies. You won’t see a stage IV breast cancer victim on the podium. Or in their glitzy TV ads.
According to Breast Cancer Action (BCA), an advocacy group in San Francisco, the problem of metastatic breast cancer and its association with fatal outcomes sullies the “sanitized” version of breast cancer put forth by “pink-ribbon culture.” So, they actively suppress it. As the BCA states, “members of the public won’t donate if they can’t solve a problem. So corporations push people with metastatic disease to the background.”
Another advocacy group, Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN) plans no rallies, events, or commercial sponsors. Instead, they encourage women with this form of the disease to speak out to educate others.
In 2009, a dozen patients traveled with MBCN to Washington, D.C., to educate members of Congress personally about this serious form of breast cancer. They spoke of how the non-profit breast cancer industry ignores it. And they lobbied about the need for more research for more effective treatments. Tragically, only two of those women who lobbied Congress are still alive today, five years later. And the politically correct, “Amen” chorus–which focuses on mammograms and celebrates early detection–continues to drown out this vital message.
This month, Katherine O’Brien, an editor at a prominent business magazine, published a searing, satirical article online entitled, “Why Can’t Every Month Be Breast Cancer Awareness Month?” In it, O’Brien lampooned the commercialized culture of “awareness” that remains steadfastly unaware of deadly metastatic disease. She said it turns the problem of breast cancer into a “pep rally.”
No wonder it seems to go so well on the football fields of October.
O’Brien took up 16th century British author Jonathan Swift’s satirical torch when she wrote, “Yes, indeed, thanks to three decades of breast cancer awareness we are showing this disease who is in charge.” She went on to say, “obviously the half million women who will die from metastatic breast cancer this year are Eeyore-like losers–gloomy people with weak attitudes,” referring to the downtrodden donkey in the Winnie the Pooh stories.
But every time I see another big, burly football player in those silly pink shoes, I know who the real jackasses are.
If another year of “Pinktober” celebrations has you “seeing red” about the lack of information on real, natural approaches to preventing breast cancer, you’ve come to the right place.
In fact, there are many ways to prevent this devastating disease. I’ve written about them at length in my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.
Most recently, I discussed a recent clinical trial that showed modest doses of vitamin D double the survival time of women with breast cancer. I wrote about this important study in the September 2014 issue of Insiders’ Cures. Subscribers can access it by logging onto my website at www.drmicozzi.com. (And if you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)
And don’t forget about the very real benefits of using mind-body interventions, like meditation and yoga. These techniques improve the quality of life and survival for women with breast cancer. To find the best mind-body approaches that will work for you, take this short “emotional type” quiz.
Also, you can get all the details in my book with Michael Jawer, CAE, called Your Emotional Type.
1. “The Silenced Breast Cancer Speaks Up,” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 10/9/2014