This post started out as a how-to-do-a-thorough-breast-self-examination post. But as I began to research the best information to share, I kept coming across articles from reputable publications discussing scams and debate within the breast cancer research community. I thought you’d find the information useful and enlightening, too. And I’ll still put the how-to-breast-exam video at the end of the post.
Beware Of Family Charities & Pink Ribbon Merchandise
According to a 2011 article in Marie Claire, $6 billion per year is spent on breast cancer research and awareness campaigns. That’s a lot of moolah. And like flies gather on meaty carcasses on summer days, scammers gather at the potential of fat gains from the breast cancer market. Don't be played for a boob by the big business of breast cancer research. Click To Tweet
One way some have personally profited is by setting up charities for which most of the donations go to staff salaries and “expenses”. Of course, “staff” consists of family members and next to nothing is actually spent on research. The donations they receive simply enrich the family.
Beware of these scams. Furthermore, never give money to a charity you are unfamiliar with. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau. And if they won’t make their annual report available to you or claim their mission is simply to “raise awareness” (what does that practically mean?), run don’t walk away.
Another way people profit from breast cancer is selling pink ribbon merchandise. Did you know nobody owns the rights to the symbol of the pink ribbon? (Susan G. Koman For The Cure has a trademarked version.) So anyone can sell look-alike merchandise and even state “a portion of the proceeds go to breast cancer research”. Zero percent is, technically, “a portion”.
Better to make your own pink ribbon magnet and send a donation to a reputable researcher. The Marie Claire article recommends these five:
• Breast Cancer Research Foundation
• Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
• The University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
• Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
• The Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center
Beware Of Over-estimating Mammography
Peggy Orenstein contributed a 2013 New York Times article as a cancer survivor who now supports later mammogram screening (50 years old) for women. Orenstein had a baseline screen at age 35 and a cancer diagnosis. She was, at first, outraged when the National Institutes of Health declined to recommend mammogram screening beginning at age 40. She took it personally – until her research convinced her they were right. (That’s big-girl pants wearin’!)
“Mammograms, it turns out, are not so great at detecting the most lethal forms of disease — like triple negative — at a treatable phase. Aggressive tumors progress too quickly, often cropping up between mammograms. Even catching them “early,” while they are still small, can be too late: they have already metastasized. That may explain why there has been no decrease in the incidence of metastatic cancer since the introduction of screening. At the other end of the spectrum, mammography readily finds tumors that could be equally treatable if found later by a woman or her doctor; it also finds those that are so slow-moving they might never metastasize.”
I recommend reading her full article to get your learnin’ about what mammograms can and cannot benefit.
Beware of Neglecting Self-Examination
As a woman with breast cancer in my immediate family, I need to be diligent about self-examination. But you do, too – with or without a family history. Because history can begin with anyone.
Finally, as promised, here’s a video to show you how to do it properly.