Thinking Pink Year-Round: Best Breast Cancer Coverage
When it comes to breast cancer — a disease that claims the lives of tens of thousands of people each year — the value of strong journalism cannot be understated. From risk factors and mammogram alternatives to understanding breast cancer disparities, the in-depth coverage of this topic helps separate fact from fiction and illuminate facets of the disease that some patients or the general public may overlook. This type of reporting can also help practitioners more fully understand not only the physiological impact of breast cancer but also its socioeconomic, political, emotional, and psychological significance.
In this post, we aim to cut through the media “noise” by collecting some of the most honest, insightful, and poignant pieces of journalism written about breast cancer over the past several years. These articles have been carefully hand-selected to help readers consider the broad spectrum of facts and opinions available today. Each has helped further the dialogue and deepen our awareness and understanding of this damaging disease.
Everyone is impacted by breast cancer differently. These articles include candid personal accounts of living with the disease and managing its emotional and physical toll.
“Don’t You Want to Be Normal?” Salon; April 5, 2015. When breast cancer survivor Mary Anne Mohanraj expressed not wanting to reconstruct her breasts after a potential mastectomy, her surgeon was incredulous. Instead of listening to Mohanraj's needs, the doctor pointed out the importance of looking feminine following surgery. Mohanraj’s essay stresses the need for health care providers to listen carefully to their patients’ wants and needs instead of letting their own social prejudices get in the way.
“Smile! You’ve Got Cancer”; The Guardian; January 1, 2010. In this candid essay, author Barbara Ehrenreich reveals the anguish, isolation, and denial she felt upon receiving her breast cancer diagnosis. She conveys her outrage at a breast cancer culture that she says focuses too much on being positive and not enough on the harsh realities of the disease. Ehrenreich warns against the dangers of sugarcoating cancer and suggests allowing patients to acknowledge negative emotions as part of the coping process.
“As I Lay Dying”; Los Angeles Times; February 20, 2015. Thirteen years after her initial diagnosis of Stage 1 breast cancer, Laurie Becklund discovered that the cancer had not only returned but also had metastasized. In this heart-wrenching essay, Becklund condemns a medical establishment that’s not equipped to handle metastatic breast cancer patients. Instead, she says, only a fraction of money raised by fundraising ventures go to research or systems to help patients already gravely ill. She emphasizes the need for an open and broad patient database that can be used as a resource for patients with a terminal diagnosis.
“Afterlives: My Mother’s Breast Cancer, and My Own”; The New Yorker; April 5, 2016. In this piece, author Kate Bolick recounts her mother’s courageous experience with breast cancer and a mastectomy, followed years later by Bolick’s own struggle with the disease. She describes how her mother brought the topic of breast cancer to light by writing about it for popular magazines. Bolick concludes that expanding the conversation around the disease was a true gift, even if she only realized it many years after her mother’s death.
Science and Research
Breast cancer research is continuously evolving, providing physicians with new insights on which to base their clinical decision-making. These pieces explore some of the latest findings impacting the way providers approach screening and treatment.
“Science Won’t Settle the Mammogram Debate”; FiveThirtyEight; October 20, 2015. How often should women get a mammogram? Recommendations differ vastly throughout the world — and even in the United States. This is because although researchers look at the same statistical evidence, they interpret it differently and base their recommendations on these interpretations. It is up to patients to weigh the facts themselves and make their own decisions regarding screening frequency.
“A Breast Cancer Surgeon Who Keeps Challenging the Status Quo”; The New York Times; September 28, 2015. Breast cancer surgeon Dr. Laura J. Esserman advises a less aggressive approach to treating breast cancer, specifically for a condition called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Instead of performing biopsies on women with DCIS, Dr. Esserman recommends active surveillance. She vehemently argues that the current approach to screening — which comes with its own risks — must change. Although her stance has been met with some controversy, Dr. Esserman is dedicated to helping the medical profession better understand the value of breast cancer screening and adapt its guidelines accordingly.
“Why Doctors Are Rethinking Breast-Cancer Treatment”; TIME; October 1, 2015.
This year, more than 40,000 women in the U.S. will die from breast cancer. Despite progress in diagnosis and treatment, this number has remained largely unchanged over the last 13-plus years. This article explains how some doctors are urging the medical profession to stop treating a cancer diagnosis as a medical emergency that warrants hasty decisions about treatment. Instead, patients should feel empowered to explore all their options — including doing nothing at all — and be able to make calculated decisions about their own health.
Philanthropy and Business
Breast cancer is more than just a health problem; it’s a global issue with political, economic, and social implications. This section features articles that examine those aspects of the disease.
“Breast Cancer Is a Political Issue”; The Huffington Post; March 8, 2016. Don’t think breast cancer is a political issue? Think again. This piece focuses on components of Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 — an initiative launched by the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) to end the disease and save lives. Author Fran Visco, president of the NBCC, outlines the efforts put forth by the organization to gain support from 2016 political candidates.
“The Big Business of Breast Cancer”; Marie Claire; September 14, 2011. Every year, an estimated $6 billion is raised to support the breast cancer cause. While this is good news, it has a darker side: charity scammers. This piece explores how many self-proclaimed breast cancer charities misuse donated funds, with very little money actually going to where it’s supposed to go, despite donors’ best intentions. The article ends with a list of smart questions to ask before donating to any charity.
“5 Things to Know Before Buying a Pink-Ribbon Product”; Mashable; October 17, 2015. During the month of October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — the color pink is omnipresent. Before handing over your money for that pink ribbon or water bottle, it’s important to know if the funds raised by these items are actually used to meet the needs of women with breast cancer. This article outlines five important questions to ask when you feel moved to purchase a pink product.
Disparities and Minorities
While advances in screening, diagnosis, and treatment have contributed to overall improvements in the breast cancer survival rate, not all groups have benefited equally. These pieces delve into the disparities that continue to undermine the health and well being of certain populations.
“Tackling a Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Survival”; The New York Times; December 20, 2013. Despite the fact that medical advances have dramatically improved survival rates for U.S. women, African-American women have benefited the least. Since 1975, the disparity in mortality rates between white women and African-American women has increased. This article sheds light on the reasons behind the widening gap and explores various efforts to reach out to more at-risk women in the African-American community.
“What Race Has to Do With Breast Cancer”; TIME; October 13, 2015. Recent research shows that women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds may have different risk factors when it comes to developing cancer. While some of these are biological and genetic, social and cultural factors may be even bigger culprits behind worse breast cancer outcomes for minority women. This piece reviews these factors as well as the latest hard data regarding breast cancer disparities in America.
“When Men Get Breast Cancer, They Enter a World of Pink”; NPR; February 8, 2016. Breast cancer care clinics and support systems are designed to meet the needs of women, leaving many male patients feeling isolated, embarrassed, and often without vital information regarding their illness. This article examines the struggles of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer in a pink-focused world as well as the importance of better understanding how the disease affects men.
“More People Seek Genetic Testing, But There Aren’t Enough Counselors”; NPR; April 18, 2016. Genetic testing is key to identifying whether a person is at significant risk for breast cancer, and the demand for this type of testing is stronger than ever. However, the supply of genetic counselors hasn’t kept up with this demand, in some cases leading to wait times lasting several months. This article examines the genetic counselor shortage and its impact on the patients who want to understand their risk.
“Why Cancer Is More Deadly If You’re Black”; The Guardian; May 26, 2016. Many cancers, including lung and breast cancer, are more deadly to African-Americans than other racial and ethnic groups. While emphasis has been placed on early screening and detection, there are other factors that can impact cancer outcomes. In this essay, author Celine Gounder explains the various drivers behind racial and ethnic disparities in cancer deaths.
Did we miss a great article or testimonial that should be included here? Let us know in the comments section below.
For more comprehensive breast cancer coverage, explore our Breast Cancer Awareness content library.