D.C. article outlines breast cancer myths — but doesn't the lore contain some truths?
|Paige Winfield Cunningham|
At least that's the contention of Paige Winfield Cunningham, a health-care correspondent for the Washington Examiner, who recently wrote an article — distributed by the Washington Post — listing these five:
1. Breast cancer is mostly linked to family history.
2. Birth-control pills increase the risk of developing the disease.
3. Larger breasts mean greater risk.
4. All women should do a monthly breast self-exam.
5. Breast cancer research needs more money.
In my view, Cunningham's too-brief summations leave much to be desired, and contain distortions of the truth.
And could lead patients, caregivers and other supporters into dangerous non-actions.
For example, the writer claims women don't need to do monthly self-exams because statistically those examinations don't improve survival rates. Tell that to my wife: She found her breast cancer early because of self-exams in the shower. She might not be alive today otherwise.
Statistics should be used only as a guideline.
Each person is an individual, and should make up her own mind regarding prevention and, if necessary, treatment.
My wife's choices are documented in my VitalityPress book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer" — which, although aimed at males, can be of use to female patients as well as caregivers. In "Rollercoaster," I, Woody Weingarten, show my wife's decisions but also provide an up-to-date look at research and meds, as well as a guide of where to find help.
Cunningham's last myth, about funding, contains the notion that "compared with other types of cancer, breast cancer research is swimming in money…thanks to a highly effective public-awareness push that began way before any other anti-cancer efforts."
Why not, instead of implying that breast cancer money should go elsewhere, suggest other cancer organizations beef up their appeals?
I could nit-pick with the way Cunningham presents each of the other three "myths" as well, though their assumptions are basically correct.
Quick, over-simplified lists aimed at gaining an audience generally aren't helpful to potential patients or caregivers, in my opinion — and could, in fact, be hazardous to their health. And that's true regarding any disease, especially life-threatening ones, not just breast cancer.