Awareness month keeps women perilously unaware

Chicago Tribune, Sunday, Octuber 26, 1997

This October marks the 13th anniversary of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), with its flagship Oct. 17 National Mammography Day. Enthusiastically promoted by the "cancer establishment" -- the American Cancer Society and the national Cancer Institute -- the American College of Radiology and main-stream women's group. NBCAM is dedicated to reducing breast cancer mortality through early detection by mammography screening. With an estimated 180,000 new cases and 44,000 deaths in 1997 -- breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women -- What could be a more worthy objective!

Unfortunately, the primary focus of NBCAM reveals profoundly misguided priorities and a disturbing lack of commitment to prevention. NBCAM is based on the insistence, exemplified by the American Cancer Society's statement in its "Cancer. Facts and Figures -- 1997," that there are no "practical ways to prevent breast cancer....Since women may not be able to alter their personal risk factors, the best opportunity for reducing mortality is through early detection" by mammography. Similarly, The National Cancer Institute's 1995 Special Presidential Commission on Breast Cancer maintained that breast cancer is "simply not a preventable disease," while requesting more funding for research on detection and treatment.