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Let's continue to think pink | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
October again; breast cancer awareness month. Pink ribbons and pink paraphernalia abound. I hear some people are weary of the pink; I’d like to share my perspective.
As a physician involved with breast cancer for the past 30 years, I reflect on the past and can see how far we have come. Perhaps, the breast cancer awareness movement deserves some credit for that progress.
Since the time I was a medical student and resident in radiation oncology in the early 1980s, I have had the opportunity to care for many women with breast cancer. The 1980s were still the early days of breast cancer screening with mammography, and as a result, many patients had advanced cancer at diagnosis. As breast conserving therapy was still controversial, most women underwent mastectomy. Chemotherapy lasted a whole year and was associated with lots of side effects that we could not easily treat. Most women did not talk about their breast cancer and it was hard to get good information about treatment choices and outcomes.
The breast cancer awareness movement was launched in the 1980s to encourage early diagnosis of breast cancer and improve the situation for women facing breast cancer. Through fundraising events like runs and walks as well as a dedication of October as a breast cancer awareness month, millions of dollars have been raised to sponsor breast cancer research and improve information and support for patients. Research has directly and indirectly led to tremendous advances in early diagnosis, the acceptance of minimal surgical procedures like lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy, improved radiation techniques, and more effective and better tolerated chemotherapy.
Breast cancer survival and the quality of life for women with breast cancer have improved as a result.
Information and support for breast cancer patients is now readily available in this country which has empowered our patients to be advocates for themselves and to get the best treatment available. The situation has improved since the 1980s; I believe in large part due to the tremendous success of the breast cancer awareness movement.
While there is still much room for improvement in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, we need to continue to “think pink.”
DR. BERIT MADSEN, Co-founder
Peninsula Cancer Center