Re: Pink Ribbons, Inc. a timely discourse:
There has been a lot of media attention surrounding the documentary film Pink Ribbons Inc., a film which is critical of the role corporations play in funding breast cancer research.
I haven’t seen the film, but I have followed the coverage with interest, and was struck by the clip in the film’s trailer which makes the assertion that breast cancer treatment hasn’t changed in decades.
The film maintains that the options available to women in the 1980s were “slash, burn, poison” — referring to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy — and that these are the same options available today.
Having worked in the field of breast cancer research over the past 20 years, I felt compelled to provide some nuance with respect to the accuracy of that statement, which is simplistic at best.
Researchers look at breast cancer across the spectrum — from prevention, to screening and detection, the biology of the cancer, to treatment and quality of life for women living with the disease. In all of those areas, science has made some tremendous advances, and many of these can be attributed to the research dollars raised through the breast cancer movement.
Perhaps most notably, as recently as the early 1980s, the only accepted surgical option available to women was a radical mastectomy. The introduction of the lumpectomy, the targeted removal of a tumour, provided a range of choice for women, and is helping to improve the quality of life following treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy have also continued to evolve, delivering treatment that is more targeted and less toxic.
To suggest that the options for women diagnosed with breast cancer are the same now as they were 25 years ago is an over-simplification of the process of detecting, diagnosing and treating the disease.
Research has built a body of knowledge that is continuing to improve the options available to find the disease early and treat it effectively to enable more women to survive.
This would not have been possible without the support of the community to ensure that dedicated funding for breast cancer research is available.
Gurmit Singh, PhD
St. George, Ontario