Fires. Firefighters. This is not how I expected to start this October newsletter. But it is how I must begin.
If you were directly or indirectly impacted by the fires in Sonoma and Napa our thoughts are very much with you at this difficult time. Thousands of adults and kids in the community grew up attending a summer camp near Santa Rosa that was completely destroyed. I personally know two families that lost their homes. Loosing buildings and structures is a big set back. The loss of life is tragic. Loosing a lifetime of photos, family heirlooms, memorabilia and memories will deeply affect all the survivors for years to come.
Kind of strange to think that on October 8th our friends from Marin Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 1775 were stationed outside Lappert's Ice Cream in Sausalito for their 4th Annual Fire and Ice Cream scoop day to benefit Zero Breast Cancer and mere hours later were in full scale action mode up in Santa Rosa.
Our deep gratitude goes to the brave and caring men and women who fought the fires, helped the victims and are still cleaning up the toxic mess.
The toxic mess. Please be careful out there folks - the health risks are both short term and long term.
Now to return to the opening I originally intended for you.....
To Pink or Not to Pink? That is the question.
According to Wikipedia National Beast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was founded in 1985 in October as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs). The aim of the NBCAM from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer.
It seems as if that focus has not shifted much in 25 years despite concerted efforts by many advocates. On the contrary the pink ribbon bonanza during October continues unabated with the most common message being shop and support breast cancer screening efforts. Key concerns are that research (especially into deadly metastatic breast cancer), prevention strategies, less harsh treatment options and survivor support services do not get the same attention, nor the same financial support as breast cancer screening does..
In a nutshell what do we know about mammograms?
- Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer. This misconception abounds. Mammograms can only ever reveal disease that already exists. An ‘all clear’ mammogram doesn’t prevent disease. It is important to be clear and precise about this.
- Breast cancer deaths are not prevented by mammograms. Early detection of breast cancer resulting from mammography and other screening protocols has meant that many women can be safely offered less toxic or aggressive treatment options and that is a good thing. Early detection has also been blamed for over-treatment of breast cancers that were never going to be life-threatening. Breast cancer screening does not determine whether the cancer will spread (metastasize). It is metastatic breast cancer that kills and death rates for people with metastatic disease have not budged much despite decades of intense screening. Understanding how to prevent cancer recurring or spreading to other parts of the body, as well as developing more and better treatment options will truly help to save more lives.
Some breast cancer survivors have started speaking out because they consider the 'pinking' of breast cancer to be demeaning or too superficial for such a serious topic. An opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review last weekend lead with the heading Breast Cancer is Serious. Pink is not.
Zero Breast Cancer partners who participate in NBCAM help to make a difference by sharing a different kind of information and raising a different kind of awareness with the public. Awareness about evidence based information on ways to reduce breast cancer incidence in the first place.
So you may well ask “What about prevention?” There are no absolute guarantees - we wish there were. Lets try another question. “What about risk reduction?” There are definitely things that individuals and communities can do. The evidence grows stronger every day. Here are 13 Ways To Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer you can share with your loved ones (available in Spanish too). You too can help to change the conversation!
Please allow me to conclude with two very important acknowledgments.
Thank you to the The Mercantile at Cavallo Point,The Lodge at Golden Gate. Leigh Vogen and team planned and hosted the second annual BFF event on October 12th. This lovely setting provides a great opportunity to share breast cancer risk reduction information.
Attendees are treated to refreshments, mini-facials and massages and a percentage of their ticket price and purchases will be donated to Zero Breast Cancer.
Catherine Thomsen, ZBC Program Director (behind the camera), Judy Wetterer, ZBC Board Secretary (left) and Anne Stolp, ZBC contract bookkeeper and Dipsea Hike coordinator (right) where on hand to mingle and answer questions.
Last and by no means least our appreciation to Sgt. Carl Huber and the the Marin County Sheriff's Office who support Zero Breast Cancer through their Pink Patch Project. Proceeds of the sale of the highly collectible patches are intended to support research, education and outreach
Thank you for joining us in pinking thoughtfully!
Wishing you good health,