I was tempted to headline this “Komen: What a Bunch of Boobs!” But that seemed in poor taste…..
In my piece in last Sunday’s NY Times Mag I wrote that after our interview (interesting timing) Komen finally took off its homepage the misleading stat about the benefits of mammography. Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz had called them out originally in their excellent “Not So” series in the British Medical Journal. According to the ever-brilliant Gayle Sulik at Breast Cancer Consortium, however, you can still find the stat displayed elsewhere on Komen’s site.
As Komen’s bold messaging continues to be erased from its materials if not from collective memory, is it enough for the group to simply step back and quietly disassociate from a misinformed pro-mammogram campaign?
Yeah-what she said! How can Komen deflect, disassociate from and deny the impact of their role in over-selling mammography when, according to Sulik’s “short list” they continue to perpetuate it in their “educational” materials and affiliate messaging (she points to such items as “Early detection of breast cancer saves lives and thousands of Orange County women,” and “Komen Austin was able to fund over 3,000 mammograms. I think of that as 3,000 lives saved.” ). Click over to the blog post yourself to read what Nancy Brinker just won’t stop saying……
Komen is not getting the message. A friend who attended the White House Correspondents’ dinner last week told me Brinker was there (don’t know why…) and commented, “We’ll soldier forward despite the critics.” How about learning from a critique, using it to make a better, stronger, more effective organization? On our joint appearance on KQED-radio’s Forum last week, after Dr. Laura Esserman urged advocates and the public not to be afraid of change, Komen’s representative immediately disengaged by listing the positive things the organization has done. She clearly has her tried-and-true sound bytes and wasn’t going listen, only, like Brinker herself, try to duck criticism by playing the victim.
If you are a Komen supporter–or even if you’re not–please keep the pressure on them to provide a truly balanced view of screening, to stop pinkwashing and to put more of their research money–more of ALL their money– towards prevention, environmental links to cancer, the mechanisms and treatment of metastasis, better understanding of DCIS, social inequities and on and on. Tell them what they’ve allocated isn’t enough. Meanwhile, there are other groups who need your help–Breast Cancer Consortium, Breast Cancer Action, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Breast Cancer Fund, Susan Love Research Foundation. See which of those moves you and jump on board.
As Sulik writes:
Mammography has been the rallying cry for breast cancer awareness for decades. And, it has helped to build an economy that focuses not on primary prevention but on the management of risk.
Time to make a change.
Update: More Komen deflection evident in the comments of this Reuters post on my piece. Really smart responses following….