Somebody Needs to Buy These Media People a Dictionary

So I’m watching GMA Friday morning and there is a brief segment about this co-host on Dancing With the Stars, Brooke Burke-Charvet. Now, I do not watch the Dancing show, know nothing of this woman, and have not bothered to look into her story on the internet, not interested enough. My complaint is the way the dark-haired female reporter, and her producers at GMA, presented the info. This Burke-Charvet woman has or had thyroid cancer, and is doing some promo thing on some health magazine about how her cancer scare means she no longer worries about looking young, and she wants people to live healthy, exercise (the usual crap), and get check-ups with doctors. Now, I do not know if it was Burke-Charvet who actually said people need to engage in preventative practices by getting annual check-ups, I will give her the benefit of the doubt. But certainly the GMA reporter said that the idea behind the campaign is for people to prevent health issues, like cancer, by going to their doctor. Apparently this Burke-Charvet has always lived healthy and had no symptoms, and it was on a routine visit to her doctor her thyroid cancer was detected.

In what universe is early detection equal to prevention?! Going to the doctor and learning she had cancer did NOT prevent cancer. She already had the cancer, therefore, it was NOT prevented. It was detected early, and that is great, but it was not prevented no matter how the media spins it.

This is the kind of thing the media does that drives me crazy. Throw around words like “prevent” so people feel in control or empowered. How many times will I have to write this? Some things are out of our control, if cancer had a motto it would be “shit happens”. This idea we can control every single thing that happens to us, cancer included, is just extreme hubris.

It is important for the media to get this language of cancer right. By suggesting to viewers that “prevention” is within our grasp just by getting regular medical check-ups is damn near negligent. I repeat, if a regular doctor’s visit (as in a visit not instigated by symptoms), reveals the presence of cancer, that is EARLY DETECTION, not PREVENTION.

The media needs to pull their collective act together. I am especially annoyed this segment was on GMA, a show featuring a news anchor with well documented bouts of cancer. She and her cast mates should know this difference all too well. Shame on you, GMA.

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Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

6 thoughts on “Somebody Needs to Buy These Media People a Dictionary”

  1. dear cancer curmudgeon,

    i read your post with relish, agree with everything you say, and join you in the all too frequently required beating of one’s head against a gnarly concrete wall when prevention is touted as the panacea of taking care of ourselves. amen to “shit happens”. and that the news anchor has had cancer bouts?! any chance you could send this post to the GMA people? wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a real dialogue about this issue, on a show millions of people view, and most likley come away believing this hogwash? does the GMA anchor not feel an iota of responsibility with that kind of information being dispensed? hell, it’s not even information, it’s faulty thinking said out loud, to the masses.

    thanks for caring so much, and putting it to words of truth, CC.

    karen, TC

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    1. Thank you! I feel like a broken record, I say these things in nearly every post and also when I comment on other blogs. Shit happens, blaming the cancer patient, the tired litany (diet, exercise, avoiding smoke and alcohol) are my favorite themes so far.

      I did contact ABC, as a matter of fact. I tried to comment on the blog, but they always post real names, and I object to that. There was a “click here if you have info about this story”, so I did. I figured, yeah I have info they don’t have…an understanding of the words prevention, early detection, and I have a dictionary. Yes, I am sarcastic, you may have noticed, ha ha.

      Interestingly enough, as I read the blog post of this story, it seems this Burke-Charvet is the one confusing the two concepts. If that is so, I am disappointed, but trying not to be judgmental of how others deal with their cancer. But using celebrity to spread misinformation is not ok. But still, the media tends to twist words and take things out of context, so I am still comfortable putting the pressure on ABC until it I know for sure who is confusing these two different things.

      I’d love an on air apology to all cancer patients (don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling), but don’t even expect a reply. If in fact it was Burke-Charvet confusing the concepts, and not ABC, wouldn’t it be great if they did a follow up story about this, to educate the public about cancer a little better. Sigh. Just dreaming bigger.

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  2. You write so clearly about the crux of the problem: That in the minds of the general population, early detection equals prevention. It’s because it’s been drummed into everyone’s heads during Pinktober.

    You make an excellent point when you say, “Going to the doctor and learning [Brooke Burke-Charvet] had cancer did NOT prevent cancer. She already had the cancer, therefore, it was NOT prevented. It was detected early, and that is great, but it was not prevented no matter how the media spins it.”

    I also agree with your comment, “If a regular doctor’s visit (as in a visit not instigated by symptoms) reveals the presence of cancer, that is EARLY DETECTION, not PREVENTION.”

    Unfortunately we will need to continue to state this until people get it. Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Goodness, I could write a million posts about the messages confusing prevention and early detection during Pinktober, but thought I’d better keep this post targeted on this particular news story. But I will post about it in the future, especially how the concept of early detection becomes moot in follow up care–in fact it was the subject of my support group meeting about a month ago…and I did fuss about how the media brainwashes us with the early detection message so much that it is hard to let go or change our thinking.

      I fantasize about becoming a hacker, like a member of the Anonymous group. But I don’t want to do stupid stuff like make social security numbers of the rich and famous public (who gives a shit, what a waste of time, man I hope they read this). Instead, I would make it so that every time anyone gets on the internet, a little fact about cancer, like the stuff I’ve said in this post, would flash on the screen for 30 seconds. Slogans like: This is the color pink, not the cure for cancer. Or Save me, not second base. Or Early detection is not the same as prevention. Or Getting a mammogram and finding cancer may save your life, but not your ta-tas. Doses of reality, because it is so needed.

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