Oh, And Another Thing: Stop Using Fear of Breast Cancer to Further Your Agenda

This is what I get for posting pre-coffee. I got up, walked dogs and wrote a post in my head while doing that, typed and posted, THEN wandered over to the coffee maker, having forgotten to include a big point in that previous post.

The worst thing about the “Time” magazine post had to be the damn title: “More Breast-Feeding Could Save Billions and Prevent Thousands of Breast Cancer Cases”. Those last 6 words. I mentioned in the first of this unintentionally ongoing series of posts that I follow news and blogs to keep up with health and breast cancer issues. Putting words like “prevent” and “breast cancer” in a title will guarantee not only I, but many women will read an article. And the article is not even about breast cancer, really. The whole point is to get folks to see the importance of breast feeding. I mean, I could care less about breast feeding issues since I never wanted kids, and for years even I’ve received the message loud and clear: breast feeding is the best thing to do in the whole world. Think pink ribbon awareness is achieved, maybe even over saturated? So is this issue. When a childless curmudgeon such as myself gets it, much like the NFL draped in pink, it is a signal the target market has “got it”. My guess is that since the breast feeding community still puts the message out there so much is that certain demographics are not being reached. Just like with pink ribbon marketing—the white woman of a certain income level (former income level in my case) has the message, and repeating it over and over to that group does not translate into getting the message to the other demographics—so change the tactics, OK? No I don’t know how to do that, if I did, I’d be doing it.

Now, don’t comment to me about breast feeding and getting the message to whatever group is not yet doing it. That ain’t my ax to grind today, or any day, so telling me problems with breast feeding awareness will fall on deaf ears.

What is pissing me off is that once again, the media AND advocates for one issue are taking breast cancer fear and using it to further their own agenda. Want attention for your cause? Figure out a way to drag breast cancer in your sound bite. The words will get in the headline or title of the article, and certainly in the tags, and presto! Instant readership. And hell, you’ll even get someone like me, who does not give a damn about your issue, to write not one, not two, but three posts about your issue—yes I realize all my ranting is just feeding the mess. I’ve talked about this before in Does Breast Cancer Owe It to Other Cancers?, advocates for other health issues cleverly realize that Breast Cancer Pink is the Big Deal. Want attention? Just say any magic words that include “breast cancer”. “Heart disease kills more women than breast cancer.” “Breast feeding prevents breast cancer.” The result is immediate attention for your personal cause.

Those of us who criticize Komen and Big Pink for breast cancer fear mongering to sell unnecessary procedures and extra mammograms (hmph, mammograms, snort of derision), just look what Komen and Pink have launched. Now everyone is doing the fear mongering dance. Everyone screams “breast cancer” to get attention even when what they have to say has little to do with breast cancer, and the public will continue to tire of hearing about breast cancer. And the problems of breast cancer will continue to go overexposed and unsolved.

In the previous post I called upon those doctors, Dr. Kathleen Marinelli, MD and Dr. Melissa C. Bartick, quoted in the piece to come up with a way to expand this “prevention method” for women who do not want children. Perhaps that is unfair for me to ask that, since their fields of expertise are Perinatal Medicine & Neonatal Medicine and Research, respectively, and I see no mention of Oncology in relation to their names according to good ol’ Google. I lay the blame not only at the feet of “Time” magazine and all media, but also at the feet of health professionals who sensationalize their health issue by using breast cancer fear as a selling tool. Don’t talk about breast cancer unless you’re giving me something I, Jane Q. Breast Cancer Patient, can use. And no, breast feeding to prevent breast cancer is not useful.

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.