Monday, 16 January 2012

Pink Ribbon Nonsense--Or Is It Even More Sinister?

As someone who has gone through a breast cancer scare (excision of suspect tissue and radiotherapy, and, thank you for your concern, five years later all seems well) I have been annoyed by the hullaballoo about "surviving breast cancer." My concern has been that women may be scared off by all the hype and those who are post-menopausal may be afraid to have mammograms for fear of what might be discovered.

Le Devoir this morning has a story that makes that concern seem not terribly important, however. The National Film Board of Canada is releasing Pink Ribbons Inc. into theatres February 3, and it sounds like required viewing for anyone who is concerned about health issues, health system financing and preventing cancer.

The film explores the links between "breast cancer awareness" initiatives and the cosmetic, chemical and pharmaceutical companies that finance them. In short, it appears likely that $1.5 billion (yes, billion!) raised in recent years has not been spent wisely, and that some of the sponsors have been using the campaigns to divert attention from their own role in the increase in breast cancer rates.

Oh, and did I mention that the surgeon who did' my operation and who insisted I needed to take Tamoxifen, was a share holder in the company that makes the drug? When I produced articles in The Lancet about a random controlled trial of the drug in Australia, the UK and New Zealand that counseled against prescribing the drug for women older than 54, he in effect told me that I was being silly. Taking the drug reduces new breast cancer by 50 per cent, he said, not mentioning that 1) the reduction was for all women (not just old ones) and from 4 per cent to 2 per cent and that 2) there were serious, sometimes fatal side effects, from taking it.

Needless to say, I went looking for another doctor to follow me.

1 comment:

Martin Langeland said...

A close friend who is 87 explored this demand for mammograms. She discovered that ultrasound scans were less painful and more reliable. They were also a lot cheaper.
Funny that the need for things like mammograms, pervasive blood thinners, et. al., is found after the device, drug etc is put into production.