After I was diagnosed with breast cancer I wasn’t sure how I felt about pink ribbons. They were suddenly everywhere I turned. A lot of people seemed to care about breast cancer and there were certainly a lot of people hoping for a cure. There were plenty of businesses getting on board too. I could shop for the cure, bake for the cure, drive for the cure, even vacuum for the cure. But something made me uneasy about all of this pink and hope. If all of this shopping and hoping was making a difference why did I get breast cancer out of the blue in the first place? And why was I being treated with the same toxic treatments of the past that may or may not prevent the cancer from returning? The best I could do after eight months of surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation was wait around and see if I died of something else to know if it had worked. Not a lot different than what happened to women who were diagnosed with breast cancer decades before me. That didn’t seem like much return for the millions of dollars being raised on pink ribbons and hope for a cure each year.
If hope was enough we would have cured breast cancer years ago. But instead of curing breast cancer all of this hope and pink has created a huge economy that feeds on the disease and is sustained by people’s fears of the disease. Cause marketing led to $1.55 billion in spending in 2009, with breast cancer being the greatest netting cause. And the business of breast cancer extends far beyond cause marketing. The mammography business is expected to surpass $1.1 billion by 2015, according to a report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. The US market for vacuum assisted breast biopsies is expected to net $350 million by 2012. Pharmaceutical company Roche brings in $1 billion in revenues each year from Avastin for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, despite the failure of studies to show it increases survival.
It is time to move beyond hoping and shopping for an end to breast cancer. We must shift the status quo from the business of breast cancer to the end of breast cancer. We must replace the complacency. We must bring back the urgency to end this disease. We must demand accountability from those making a profit off breast cancer, and ensure that resources and efforts are focused in the right places to bring about eradication of this disease.
We’ve never set a deadline before. It is time. Ten years to get it done. Breast Cancer Deadline 2020. www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org