Halfway Through Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Still Slow Progress — Where Are The Cures?

It has been reported that a worry is setting in among those advocating for more breast cancer awareness, research, and cures as the once-a-year awareness month has become so heavily commercialized that people are not recognizing the problem as a whole 365-day-per-year issue for those who are, or know someone, living with cancer.

“The greatest danger with this month-long cancer extravaganza is that it is rapidly taking the form and shape of Christmas: heavily commercialised and promptly forgotten until next year.”

The movement to “empower” cancer patients has led to a neglect of the actual reality that many sufferers go through and runs the risk of trivializing the experience. Cancer is seen as a great equalizer because it does not distinguish between the rich and the poor, or any other classifications. Moreover, although early diagnosis can help women who have the means to pay for treatment, those women in lower economic brackets tend not to get the care they need and die early from the disease even with early diagnosis.

The BBC reports on one of its own journalists, Victoria Derbyshire, who has decided to document her treatment since her diagnosis. Victoria underwent a mastectomy to remove her lobular breast cancer, which could have spread to surrounding areas. The procedure itself has left her with little pain, but her attitude toward the illness is what is important. In an interview with BBC News, she explains her stance now.

“I don’t feel that I’m fighting cancer, I am simply being treated for cancer.”

Moving through the phases of treatment, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy are recommended to prevent what is called a recurrence, that is, when the original cancer shows up in another area of tissue away from the primary tumor. The NFL is supporting the cause throughout the month of October. The NFL’s A Crucial Catch, is an outreach by the National Football League which promotes breast cancer awareness by having special cheers and other publicity in games to advertise to the crowds.

It is only in the last 15 years that progress has slowed. Over the last 60 years survival rates have tripled. From 1944-1954, only 25.1 percent of women could expect to survive for 10 years after any diagnoses of breast cancer. Now, the rate stands at 76.5 percent. This improvement has been attributed to early diagnosis, the care itself, surgery techniques, improving chemotherapy, and hormone therapy which targets certain genetic strains of cancer, thereby lowering the risk of recurrence.

What about the progress and cures that people are demanding? Breastcancer.org answers this question.

“Healthcare advances usually do happen in baby steps not giant leaps forward. And baby steps can add up to giant leaps over time: at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, breast cancer survival tripled in 60 years.”

And so if the trend continues, then breast cancer survival rates will keep increasing and in line with developments in cancer therapies which promise to benefit breast cancer, the survival rates are sure to increase. For the moment, however, focus is on the October awareness, and it can only be hoped that this focus is not lost during the other months of the year.

[Images by Jared Wickerham / Getty Images]