Thursday, February 12, 2009

Prevention is the cure

I've been thinking about the Breast Cancer 3-Day and other walks and fundraisers for breast cancer. You have to be careful where you give your money. Not all causes are the same.

Right now, there are two things I am interested in:
  • how to prevent breast cancer by finding the cause
  • how to cure breast cancer by refining treatment so women get enough and not too much (I'm not happy with all these prophylactic double mastectomies that I'm reading about!)
If you really want to make a difference, donate to one of these organizations:

The Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition has a really wonderful description of its work.
...we define breast cancer as a political issue, and challenge all obstacles to the eradication of this disease. To eradicate breast cancer we must prevent it. This does not refer to early detection in the form of self breast exams and mammography. We are trying to find the causes of breast cancer, so that we can prevent every woman and every man from ever getting breast cancer in the first place.

While screening and treatment are critically important, many good organizations and federal programs are offered to assist in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. What is far too under-funded and under-recognized is the need to research what is causing this disease. Although there are some important steps that we each can take in our own homes to eat well, exercise, avoid cigarettes, etc., we know that even the healthiest among us still has a 1 in 7 chance* of getting diagnosed. For this reason, the MBCC advocates for increased resources to investigate environmental links to breast cancer in the form of toxins that can be found in our air, water, soil, food, homes, cleaning supplies and other consumer products that we use every day. Furthermore, we challenge companies who have co-opted the pink ribbon to sell their products, while giving little to none of their profits to prevent breast cancer and even worse, may have chemicals in their products that are adding to the epidemic.

A similar organization is The Breast Cancer Fund in San Francisco.

Another wonderful organization is the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. You can either donate to the foundation, whose goal is to end breast cancer by doing research on ducts of the breast (which is where most breast cancers begin), or you can join the Army of Women, which is trying to recruit 1 million women who may take part in research studies about various aspects of breast cancer or breast health. Here is what the stated goal of the Foundation is:
More than $4 billion dollars has been spent on breast cancer research in the United States. Yet we still do not know what causes breast cancer or how to prevent it. At the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, we believe that to eradicate breast cancer we need to begin where breast cancer begins—in the breast ducts. The Foundation is engaging in an extraordinary opportunity to focus research on the breast ducts and understand how the breast works. With your support, we will determine how to prevent and eradicate breast cancer once and for all.
Another agency I like is Breast Cancer Action, which also sponsors Think Before You Pink. Breast Cancer Action advocates for policy changes in three priority areas:

- Treatment by shifting the balance of power at the FDA away from the pharmaceutical industry and towards the public interest while advocating for more effective and less toxic treatments.
- Environment by decreasing involuntary environmental exposures that put people at risk for breast cancer.
- Inequities by creating awareness that it is not just genes, but social injustices - political, economic, and racial inequities - that lead to disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

Think Before You Pink urges people to avoid reflexively giving to any organization that claims to be supporting breast cancer without finding out where the money is actually going. Here is a list of their critical questions to ask.

I also like the Silent Spring Institute which is doing important hands-on scientific research on environmental links to breast cancer right here in Massachusetts.

I would encourage anyone who wants to give, to look at one of these important organizations first. Thank you.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Regarding double mastectomies- not everyone is so fortunate to not have genetic markers, to have a localized tumor, to have a healkthy partner in case, etc. I know 7 women who have had breast cancer and only one of them had a double mastectomy- she did the right thing for her...