Many know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But, how much do you really know about the disease that women are encouraged to be vigilant of from the moment they develop breasts? Below is a list. Can you spot which of these is true and which is false? Before you look at the answers, jot down what you think you already know.
- Early detection of breast cancer saves lives.
- Metastatic breast cancer happens when other forms of cancer invade the breasts.
- Metastatic breast cancer, also known as Stage IV, is the only breast cancer that kills.
- The pink ribbon movement has always been pink.
- Roughly 25% of donations to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation (think about pink ribbons) goes to metastatic breast cancer research.
- Metastatic breast cancer research strives to find causes, diagnoses, therapies, and cures.
- There is currently no cure for metastatic breast cancer.
How well did you do? If you were like me heading into this, chances are, not very well. Check out the answers.
- False. There is no scientific evidence that early detection of breast cancer saves lives. Enter: metastatic breast cancer, which can strike up to decades after a patient has been given a clean bill of health. While 6-10% of breast cancer diagnoses are metastatic from the onset, another 30% of women who have previously had – and even beaten – breast cancer at any stage will go on to develop metastatic breast cancer.
- False. Metastatic breast cancer is diagnosed when cancer that had previously been contained inside the breast spreads (or metastasizes) to other parts of the body, usually the bones, lungs, and/or liver.
- True. If you have ever known someone who has died of breast cancer, it was from metastatic breast cancer. 100% of breast cancer deaths are from MBC. Statistically speaking, that’s an estimated 40,000 deaths a year from MBC, or roughly 1 death every 13 minutes.
- False. Let me introduce you to Charlotte Haley, who died in 2014 of metastatic breast cancer. In 1991, she came up with the idea of the peach ribbon in her own home. When approached by popular magazines and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, who were hoping to use her peach ribbon, she refused them, worried that corporate sponsors might take advantage of her cause. A court decision ruled that changing the color of the ribbon would bypass legal issues. Hence, the birth of the most familiar breast cancer awareness symbol: the pink ribbon, sponsored by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, which is the charity you donate to when you donate via the pink ribbon.
- True and False. According to the Susan G. Komen website, they have donated $166 million to metastatic breast cancer research, though whether this statistic reflects the 2016 year or the cumulative past thirty years their foundation has existed, is unclear. However, according to their rating on CharityNavigator.org, the Susan G. Komen foundation brought in close to $211 million in 2016, which would suggest that the $166 million they have raised toward MBC research was not the result of a single year at 26% of donations appropriated to MBC research, as indicated by their website. It has also been suggested (though I’ll admit that I could not find sources to back this claim up) that the money used for MBC research by Komen focuses on causal and environmental factors and early detection. What is more supported though, is this: only 2% of donations made goes toward MBC treatment research. Let me repeat that:
Only 2% of donations made to the Komen foundation goes toward treatment research for the only breast cancer that kills.
- True. Through the grassroots organization Metavivor, 100% of donations (unless otherwise specified by donors) and 100% of proceeds from events (after the cost of events) goes toward funding research grants in the areas of cause, diagnosis, therapy, and cure. Even better, they are a completely volunteer staff (most of whom are currently living with stage IV breast cancer), unlike the Chief Executive Officer of Komen (2016 annual salary: $496,294) and the Founder of Komen (2016 annual salary: $261,715).
- Sadly, True. There are therapies to prolong life with MBC and the quality of that life, but even more than 30 years after the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation began (as Nancy Brinker’s last promise to her sister Susan, dying of MBC), the life expectancy for someone diagnosed with MBC remains 18 – 24 months. Breakthroughs in therapies have given some hope of more than that, but unfortunately 5 years is still the exception, not the norm. While it can be said that certain stages of breast cancer can be cured, of that group of women, 30% will go on to develop MBC. So, it is difficult to say whether for 30% of that demographic, there is a true cure at all.
So, now that you know more about this disheartening disease, have hope. There is something you can do to help. I urge every one of you this year and every year after to think about Metavivor.org when you think about donating.
Here is a link to an article entitled: “The Lies That Bind,” written by Kelli [Parker] Davis, a childhood friend of mine living with stage IV/metastatic breast cancer. She was once a breast cancer survivor and a Komen advocate. She now speaks out for Metavivor and this piece is an eye-opener.
The pink ribbons are out in force in October and the foundation behind them, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is the one that jumps to mind when you think about breast cancer. But, if what you’re looking for when you donate is to make the biggest impact possible, you couldn’t donate to a better organization than Metavivor. So, as October rolls to a close, if you haven’t yet donated in support of breast cancer, consider this charity. And keep them in mind throughout the year as well. This month may bring awareness, but the disease is present every day of the year. #dontignorstageIV #Metavivor
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