Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pink is almost over

October is almost over, and that means the incessant onslaught of pink is almost over, as well.

I'm very glad for that.

Sometimes people don't understand why I don't love all the pink. I had breast cancer. Shouldn't I love all the attention being given to "find the cure" and "awareness"?

The reason I don't love the pink is complex. First of all, there is never going to be one cure for breast cancer. Breast cancer is actually many different diseases, and likely if a cure is to be found, it will be many different cures.

Treatments are improving, no doubt, but we still don't know a lot about why women get breast cancer in the first place. Prevention -- real prevention -- is just in its infancy. (See this "helpful" infographic. How many of these things can you really do anything about?)

Also, we don't understand why some women get breast cancer and it spreads (metastasizes) even if it is found early and treated early, and some women get breast cancer and it never spreads. Remember, women don't die from breast cancer tumors in their breasts. They die from metastasis to other parts of the body.

Women are responding to these uncertainties by having mastectomies when they don't need them. This is a crisis in and of itself.

Where do we go from here? Clearly, research needs to continue. Research into prevention, into better detection that differentiates between cancers that should be treated and those that don't need treatment, into better and less toxic treatments, and into treatments to prevent metastasis. We need a reasonable approach to research. This website from the UK shows what a reasonable approach can look like.

We need better laws that force companies to test chemicals used in consumer products so that we aren't exposed daily to chemicals whose effects are unknown. However, we can't expect consumers to protect themselves on their own by careful shopping and avoiding certain products. The laws need to change. 

Most of all, I think we need some common sense. We need to realize that breast cancer isn't simple. It's not a sound bite. It's complicated, and prevention and detection and treatment are complicated, and we have to be okay with that.

And that's all I have to say. For now.

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