This just in from: REDFLAGSWEEKLY

October 14, 2002


A Big Fat “D” Grade For Research – Where Is All The Money Going

By Marilyn Holasek Lloyd

Each year, those of us who are survivors of breast cancer have to endure Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. I say endure, because it really is a sham. Survivors are about as aware as we can get, and those without the disease are frightened to no end. Besides, it’s old news that the month is financed by a drug company, which is one of the major pesticide manufacturers.

So every October the hype begins. Major talk shows have programs. Television stations tell women to get their mammograms. Hospitals have their own programs, and the pink ribbons are plastered everywhere. Then there is what I call the 3M’s, the Motion Money Makers. The walks, runs, and mountain climbing all bringing in money for breast cancer. Our community has their walk in May. All this motion to what end? Except for some early breast cancers, there has been little difference in the survival rate in 50 years.

I go to our local walk in May not to support the organization that is one of the wealthiest in the world and has made hardly any dent in cancer survivorship, but I walk to show the community I?m still alive and in motion. The local paper printed an article I wrote at diagnosis, and I had a lot of the community praying for me. I want to show them I?m still here.

But everyone I mentioned involved in this “awareness” is missing the main point: What is the cause of breast cancer? There are no answers, only speculations. When I raised the question with the oncologist, he advised, “don’t worry about it.” Don’t worry about it? What about my daughter? What about other daughters? How can someone prevent something when the causes are unknown.

Of course, there is major speculation that breast cancer is mostly an environmental disease. Or perhaps mammograms in their own way have caused some of the disease. Certainly some HRT has been proven to cause some. But what is going on in our society? The rates have steadily increased over the last 50 years. When I was in nursing school and worked in the hospital as slave labour, as most nurses did, I saw one breast cancer patient in 3 years. In those days they were noticeable – the ones who died from a specific cancer because, if terminal, they stayed in hospital for months.

Now we fast forward 30 years. The national picture is that one in 8 women by the age of 80 will get breast cancer. And now women are being diagnosed younger and younger. It is a great tragedy. It makes me cry when it affects the young ones.

When Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes up, the reporting tries to put a positive spin on breast cancer. I don’t see it that way at all, and few seem to have the guts to say it. Let’s just summarize the status of breast cancer today:

* No known causes, therefore no prevention

* Mammograms that miss cancer in dense breasts

* Mammograms toted as prevention, but are not prevention

* Self exams that don’t affect survival

* Slash, burn and poison treatments which are barbaric

* No cure for metastatic breast cancer

* Lots of money wedded to chemotherapy which make drug companies great profits.

If I were grading the medical researchers, I?d have to give them a big fat “D.” Where is all the money going? Even the new non-toxic drug treatments aren’t extending life all that long. The emotional cost of this disease cannot be measured.

Someone reading this might say “this woman is angry.” Darn right I?m angry. Young women never having children because of breast cancer, or older ones missing their beloved children’s childhoods, or someone my age missing weddings and grandchildren.

I challenge mainstream research doctors to come up with some better understanding of causes and therefore prevention, and then report back as soon as possible with some real news. Maybe then we will have something to say about Breast Cancer Awareness. Or will next year again be a bunch of hype?