In recent years, cancer specialists have warned that aggressive early screening for people at low risk for breast cancer may do more harm than good because it can lead to unnecessary treatment. Yet expensive awareness campaigns — featuring those ubiquitous pink ribbons — continue to encourage early screening and mammograms. Forum discusses breast cancer awareness and research, and the role of the high profile “pink ribbon” campaign.

Peggy Orenstein, contributing writer for New York Times Magazine and author of "Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture"
Dr. Laura Esserman, professor of surgery and radiology and director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at UCSF
Chandini Portteus, Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Scientific Programs at the Susan G. Komen Foundation

  • thucy

    Peggy Orenstein is a secular saint. Can’t wait to hear her, am reading her current expose in NYT right now. Great guest.
    As much as I agree with Orenstein on the problems of overtesting (and the commercialization of cancer through “pink” campaigns), I am hoping she or Esserman will address the weird timing of this coverage with the sequester effects on young research scientists – putting some of our new young PhD’s out to pasture.
    Am also hoping she discuss the other big “awareness campaign”/scam besides “pink” – that is (was) Armstrong’s “livestrong.”

  • lombadesign

    I lost my sister to breast cancer and have participated in countless Relay for Life’s, but now I am in complete dismay that we don’t discuss or address nutrition in dealing with cancer, or any other disease for that matter. We know so much more scientifically, but we cowtow to the pleasure principal instead of “Let food be thy medicine.” Can we please have a serious thoughtful discussion about this? Thank you. I’ll be listening from work.

    • thucy

      I hope they address your question, and along similar lines, maybe Oreinstein or Esserman can discuss our government’s failure to address environmental factors, from industrial pollution to endocrine disruptors, these are far harder to rein in than diet and may play the larger role.

  • thucy

    Here is a link to the site of model/artist Matuschka, who famously shared a beautiful photo of her non-reconstructed breast, and whom Orenstein has written about.

    on Matuschka’s photo, Sandra Day O’Connor wrote: “It wasn’t just her damaged chest but her resilient dignity which was so powerful.”

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    Thank you Ms. Ornstein so much for speaking out about this.

    It’s easy to overlook or pooh-pooh the results of over treatment – what’s the big deal with a little biopsy? But some effects of treatment can be devastating. I developed neuropathy as the result of medical treatment (for asthma). Neuropathy can also result from certain cancer treatments as well.

    Until i received sufficient treatment (which took about two years and four different doctors) i had severe pain and muscle weakness so bad that, shortly before i got treatment, i was seriously considering suicide. I was a newly married 43 year old woman. The effects of over treatment are not all psychological.

    We need more information so that as few people as possible are subject to over treatment, and that we figure out how to help women with deadly, aggressive breast cancers. Thank you again, steph

  • trite

    Please speak about the risks of the radiation from mammography–usually not addressed by the experts, or dismissed as inconsequential. Also, is there a push from certain doctors to use the procedure because they benefit financially?

  • Diana Brito

    Just pulled over in tears. Dcis is not cancer?! Then why did I have to get a big chunck of my breast removed? I would never ever have done that if it were not presented as an early cancer. Here I have been going around comforted in the fact that I got a jump on it. Now I am devasted because I am missing 1/4-1/3 of my breast.

    • Bill Inglis

      My ex wife had the same DCIS that you did and a mastectomy. Five years later the DCIS had spread into her lymph nodes and she was treated with chemotherapy and a drug called tamoxifin. Although there has always been over aggressive treatment for this condition don’t assume that early detection wasn’t important.

  • Cluny

    Why no mention of a cheap and effective breast cancer treatment – self-examination. I had two primary cancers, one in each breast five years apart, both of which I found myself by examining my breasts and both of which did not show up on a annual mammogram!

  • robin

    I think you’re doing a disservice by making it seem like mammograms do not help catch cancer early. I went in for my mammogram early, was diagnosed with DCIS, had a mammogram, then was rediagnosed with invasive carcinoma, grade c, triple negative. I have been cancer free for 4 years probably because my tumor was very small (4mm). it was not palpable so if I had waited it probably would have metastasized. I’m glad I had a mammogram early.

    Also, I find it very offensive that you would have the Susan B Komen Foundation representative on considering their campaign against Planned Parenthood who does alot of screening for low income women. No one should give money to this organization if they want to fight cancer.

    • thucy

      “I think you’re doing a disservice by making it seem like mammograms do not help catch cancer early.”

      I don’t think that’s what they’re saying, they’re urging us to take a closer look at risks/benefits of mammography, as well as the commercialization of cancer through Komen.
      But I think you’re right to bring up the Komen Fdtn.’s attempts to devalue Planned Parenthood which, independent of mammagrophy, is of incredible value to women’s health.

  • trite

    Extraordinary that no one addressed the potential risks of radiation from mammography. Why didn’t the doctor come prepared to answer that very big question which makes many women never want to have a mammogram.

  • Bill Inglis

    The rate at which DCIS is diagnosed has increased dramatically in recent years. While DCIS isn’t life-threatening, it does require treatment to prevent the condition from becoming invasive. Most women with DCIS are effectively treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiation.

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