Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Peeling Back the Pink of Breast Cancer Awareness

by Melissa Garvey, ACNM Writer and Editor

Last weekend the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) launched an Emerging Leaders workshop—a program designed to train the next generation of breast cancer advocates. I attended as an ACNM staffer and was struck by the parallels between breast cancer advocacy and birth advocacy.

What I found most fascinating was the amount of misinformation about breast cancer that circulates in the media, the health care system, and even scientific peer-reviewed journals. Just as birth advocates challenge women and health care providers to reach beyond the traditional, medical model of birth practice to evidence-based, woman-centered care, NBCC is blowing the whistle on breast cancer screening, prevention, and treatment practices that are neither scientifically sound or patient friendly.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are a few myths and truths from NBCC:

True or False?
  1. Monthly breast self exams save lives.
    FALSE. The evidence actually shows that breast self exams (BSE) do not save lives or detect breast cancer at an earlier stage.

  2. Most women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.
    FALSE. Eight out of nine women who develop breast cancer do not have an affected mother, sister, or daughter.

  3. Mammograms can only help and not harm you.
    FALSE. False positive results may lead to unnecessary, intrusive surgical interventions, while false negative results will not find cancerous tumors.

  4. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases your risk of breast cancer.
    TRUE. According to the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy Trials, an estrogen-plus-progestin replacement therapy increases the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots.
As a woman with no family history of breast cancer, myth #2 is the most surprising to me. Which of these myths and truths most surprises you?

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