Could Someone Explain It To Me?

Yet another Time magazine blog post claiming that breast feeding could save thousands from breast cancer.

How? Explain it to me, because I am a science idiot so I don’t get it. To the best of my understanding, the production of milk for babies has something to do with estrogen, which has something to do with, or not, in estrogen receptive cancer. Am I totally misunderstanding this?

I see this claim about having kids/breast feeding and the correlation to breast cancer every few months. This one was especially annoying in that it contained this: “What’s important is that it tells us that the cost of not providing support to women to optimally breast-feed their babies is astronomical because of the known health benefits to women. This points out that breast-feeding is not a lifestyle choice; it’s a public health imperative.” (So says Dr. Kathleen Marinelli.)

So I am not doing my part for public health by choosing to ignore my biological imperative (I never wanted kids), and not breast feeding. So my cancer is my fault and I’ve placed undue burden on public health. Yes, I get that she was probably saying those words to make employers understand that leave time (or whatever) needs to be provided for nursing mothers. I have no objection to that. And I probably should not complain, I’m in the minority (again). I’m just so tired of seeing this kind of headline, with an article that contains NO explanation of how breast cancer is linked to breast feeding. (I had to resort to Google, keep reading.)

I was estrogen and progesterone negative, HER2 positive. How does that have to do with not breast feeding? When I Googled “how does breast feeding prevent breast cancer” the first (non-ad-related) article that comes up is Dr. Weil saying “breastfeeding does appear to protect against breast cancer, probably by affecting levels of estrogen in a woman’s body”. My cancer had nothing to do with estrogen. Hell, I’m still on birth control pills!  

The paranoid side of me wants to see a conspiracy in this constant stream of encouragement to reproduce and do as nature intended (breed & breast feed). Not everyone wants kids. And it’s not like there is a shortage or something.

Does it bother no one that I would be the reincarnation of Joan Crawford? That I am the definition of an unfit mother? I made a rational, informed, modern choice to not have children, and it was the correct one. And breast cancer is NOT my punishment for this correct choice.

I know, I know. This article was not directed at me personally. But they seem to be so frequent, when I am least expecting them. It is not as if I am seeking them out. I follow/subscribe to blogs about health, and breast cancer specifically. I do this looking for any shred of hope of protecting myself from going through cancer again. And this is what I get for that.

Please. Stop. Blaming. Patients. For. Getting. Breast. Cancer.

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.

15 thoughts on “Could Someone Explain It To Me?”

  1. I personally think this is a load of bunk. But as I sat in the waiting area of the Breast Center just before hearing the news that my lumps were cancer, I noticed that all the pamphlets I picked up spouted the same risk factor nonsense about how having kids and breastfeeding prevents breast cancer. There was even a breast cancer video playing on a loop on the TV that was saying the same thing. And this was 3 years ago, so they’ve been saying the same thing for years!

    I breastfed twins for 2 1/2 years. Constantly. That’s a lot of boob action! And I didn’t have any problems with my boobs until I was pregnant with them and breastfed. I went from no problems to tons of problems. Lumps. Recurrent infections. Clogged milk ducts. Etc.

    And then I found the cancerous lumps (when they were large enough to palpate) at 33, within 3 years of nursing. Coincidence? I don’t know, but it seems awfully fishy to me! Honestly, I believe my pregnancy (plagued with problems) and the breastfeeding played a role in developing breast cancer at my age.

    Try not to let the powers that be bring you down because you chose not to procreate. I think this theory is a load of B.S.!!!


    1. In all truthfulness, I know that the idea is a “blanket” idea, that it probably does help prevent SOME cancer, but not ALL cancer; it is the headlines and blanket generalizations that bother me. People who know little of cancer will accept the headline as gospel, and tsk tsk at me for not doing all I could to prevent my situation (not that I should care, since I will not these people who judge me….but still!). I just think cancer is too complex to boil down to these blanket headlines–it is too damaging to do so. Sigh.
      Thanks for reading…I feared this post was a cry of frustration into darkness…


      1. I agree. I am often frustrated by the headlines and the things people who know me and don’t know me will say to me because they heard it “somewhere.” I think breast cancer is one of the most misunderstood diseases because it is so complex and because “we” still can’t pinpoint its exact cause(s). And because we have large organizations that people rely on for information sharing “facts” that serve them. But I digress!
        Thanks for posting — I appreciate your posts, cry of frustration or not!


  2. Breastfeeding a public health imperative? Balls!
    That is such pure unadulterated bullshit. Blame the patient. And also pile the guilt on the woman who chooses not to breastfeed for her own personal reasons. What’s next? Those who weren’t breastfed have a higher likelihood of getting breast cancer? Balls!

    (Great post.)


    1. You’re right, did not even think about women who do not, or in some cases cannot, breastfeed. I remember my friend’s misery at having trouble that prevented breastfeeding her first child. The guilt was enormous. And ha–those not breastfed getting cancer (I was not breastfed BTW). Even worse than blame the patient, blame the parents! Because that doesn’t happen enough, (maniacal laughter).


  3. I don” t believe it either, know many women who breast fed and still got cancer, and whom did not breast feed and did not get cancer . Also hate when they blame having children after 35 for a cause of breast cancer. I did both…children after 35 and personally chose not to breast feed (I know I must be a demon) and got triple negative breast cancer. Hormones had nothing to do with it. Researchers really need to look at environmental factors, pesticides in our food, plastic and metals , other genetic mishaps, and stop blaming us. None of us fit into the same mold, neither do our cancers. Yes, indeed it is a very complex disease and I am quite sure very frustrating for the researcher (not to mention those of us whom suffer or have suffered from it.) I will not accept the blame for my cancer and none of us should have to read articles that try to make us feel bad and shameful. We did not make this happen to us and we should not be made to suffer more than we do or have. Rise above it!


    1. Hi bekikat…perfect comment is perfect!
      Wish I could be the one to rise above it, but that is just not my way. I’m much more get in the mud and muck it up! Oh well, keeps me full of snuff and fighting!


    2. Oh forgot to say you may like an old post of mine re environment, called personal responsibility versus corporate responsibility, I think. If you enter some of those words in the search button, should turn up.


  4. Blame the patient… right. One reason I didn’t find my stage III lump earlier was due to stupidly believing the crap about breastfeeding, and other stuff. I was happily living with the thought that – hell no, I won’t get breast cancer; I breastfed a total of 12 years. Now I’m stage IV, ER+… yup. My fault for believing the hype. My fault either way, right? Oh, and my weight went up and down, my fault.


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