Sunday, October 12, 2008

Breast Cancer Month - Less Pink More Research

Have you noticed how many retailers are drawing attention to Breast Cancer this month? How terrific, we say. Look how much they're promoting awareness and helping to find a cure. And how nice that we should have a month dedicated just to breast cancer! After all, more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

But behind the banners and promotions, the pink ribbons, t-shirts, jewelry, bags, M&Ms and everything else pink, pink, pink, there is the insidious little issue of how much of the pink promotion actually goes to research. As it turns out, not a whole lot. So before rushing out and wildly buying precious pink items, find out exactly how much money will actually go to research and how much goes back into the pockets of the producer.

What we really need to be asking is why, after more than ten years of pink promotion, we still don't have solid answers about what causes most breast cancers and how to prevent them. And why, with all the research being done, are women still dying of this disease? Is research actually addressing these issues? If not, where is our money going?

When I was first diagnosed five years ago, I admit that I actually believed that very few women died of breast cancer. When I was told to put my affairs in order, I was stunned, not just from the diagnosis, but from the reality that actually a lot of women do die from breast cancer. Between 40,000 and 60,000 women will die this year!

While yes, many of us live with metastatic (advanced) breast cancer as a chronic illness, what this really means is invasive, toxic, painful and exhausting treatment will keep us alive. Most of my friends who have had metastatic cancer didn't die from the cancer itself but from the side effects of the drugs. Frequently our hearts finally give out or pneumonia overtakes us.

In an election year, it's crucially important that we look at what the candidates are saying about health care and medical research for all forms of cancer. When asked what their thoughts are on health care and research, Barack Obama said,

"I think it should be a right for every American. … for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that."

McCain said:

"I think it’s a responsibility, in this respect, in that we should have available and affordable health care to every American citizen, to every family member. … But government mandates I — I’m always a little nervous about. But it is certainly my responsibility."

This is what the Breast Cancer Coalition says:

Health care is a basic human right.

Health care is fundamental to maintaining a productive society.

Health care coverage must be guaranteed for everyone.

The health care system must provide the same comprehensive benefits to everyone and must meet the public’s expectations.

The health care system must be redesigned so that treatment and coverage decisions are based on evidence and best practices.

All individuals must financially contribute to the system, based on ability to pay.
The new health care system must be easy to use for patients and providers, and easy to administer.

Any system of coverage must include these core values:

Access. Individuals must be able to get all the care they need when they need it. This must include meaningful access to evidence-based interventions.

Information. Individuals must receive information that is evidence-based, objective, complete and correct.

Choice. Individuals must have some choice of doctors and care.

Respect. Our health care system must treat the whole person, not just a person’s disease.

Accountability. Standards regarding care must be clear, uniform, and enforceable. Patients must have a right to sue if their basic human right to health care is violated.

Improvement. The health care system must have methods for measuring what is and is not working so that the quality of care can continuously be improved. Individuals must have access to well designed and efficiently run clinical trials, and must have coverage of all routine care costs associated with participation in such trials.

When I was in eighth grade our teacher told us that one in four people would get cancer at some time in their lives. Current statistics show that one in two men will be diagnosed cancer at some point in their lives; for women, it is one in three. In many developing countries nearly everyone will develop some form of cancer within their lifetime.

Given these statistics it's important to do some research. We are all exposed to chemicals and other environmental pollutants. Many of us have been exposed to too much radiation and other cancer-causing factors. Given this is the world we now live in, learn what you can do to prevent getting cancer. Being informed and aware is powerful.

Speak up! Demand that our leaders provide effective health care for everyone. strong>Seven out of ten families whose homes went into foreclosure were not living irresponsibly -- they were sick! Trust me, this can happen to any of us!

Get involved! For more information from an intelligent, activist site, I highly recommend, not just for breast cancer, but for all cancers.

Pink is lovely but we need less pink and more results! Keep our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends and wives healthy!

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