For many who are serious about ending the breast cancer epidemic, Breast Cancer Action is near and dear to our hearts. BCA takes on some of the hardest issues related to breast cancer: from socio-economic status as a risk factor, to root causes in the environment and beyond.If you are not famliar with their work, please keep reading! Thanks to BCA Membership Coordinator Caitlin Carmody for today’s post.
Breast Cancer Action was founded in 1990 by a group of fierce and angry women who were living with and dying from metastatic breast cancer. They’d grown frustrated and angry. They wanted unbiased, comprehensive information to help them understand their diagnoses and treatment options instead of the inadequate and superficial information given to them. Together, in response to their shared anger, they formed Breast Cancer Action around a kitchen table. Today only one of those eight women is alive. BCAction proudly and fiercely continues the work they began. We are a national, grassroots organization with over 40,000 members who take action to end the epidemic. Our mission goes far beyond the notion of “the cure” to tackle the root causes of this disease and the pressing issues that must be addressed to make the systemic changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic.
Breast Cancer Action was the first national breast cancer organization to adopt a strict corporate contributions policy: we refuse funding from any company that profits from or contributes to cancer. This independence means we can give women unbiased, accurate information about breast cancer and put women’s health first, always.
We work to end the breast cancer epidemic while supporting women who have already been diagnosed in a variety of ways: we advocate for more effective, less toxic breast cancer treatments by shifting the balance of power in the Food and Drug Administration’s drug approval process away from the pharmaceutical industry and toward patients; we work to decrease involuntary environmental exposures that put people at risk for breast cancer; and we work to create understanding that it is not just genes, but social injustices – political, economic, and racial inequities – that lead to disparities in breast cancer outcomes for women of color and poor women. We also provide a free Information and Referral service to thousands of women and their loved ones as well as free webinars; fact sheets; and a quarterly newsletter.
Many smart and fearless advocates have written about how the world is awash in pink ribbon noise that is not getting us very far, including the late great Rachel Cheetham Moro, as well as Gayle Sulik, Katie Ford-Hall, Samantha King, Lori and others. This “pink razzmatazz,” as Rachel called it, would have women believe we can prevent ourselves from getting this disease if only we try hard enough: get your annual mammogram, don’t smoke, eat healthy, exercise, reduce your alcohol consumption, and maintain a healthy weight. It would be nice if this were the case. But the truth about breast cancer is harsh and ugly—more than half of all breast cancers have no known causes, scientific evidence suggests that many cases are linked to exposure to environmental toxins, current treatments are horribly toxic and impossibly expensive, and mammography is an imperfect tool, not a silver bullet. We have to focus on the large-scale societal changes that benefit everyone’s health.
In 2000 we launched our Think Before You Pink campaign in response to members’ concerns about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market—they wondered, how much are these promotions actually benefitting women? Through the campaign, we mobilize women’s health activists and together call for more transparency and accountability from companies that raise money in the name of breast cancer. We also encourage consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions: Where is the money going? How much is being donated? Is any money being donated? Does the product itself contribute to the epidemic? We coined the term “pinkwashing” to describe when a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, simultaneously produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to an increased risk of the disease. Corporations reap large profits (and goodwill) by linking their products to a pink ribbon. However, many of these companies, including cosmetic and car companies, are themselves contributing to breast cancer. If these corporations want to make a difference, instead of profiting from breast cancer, they should be taking action to prevent women from getting sick in the first place. You can see some of the pinkwashers that activists have called out here. If you are at all concerned or troubled by what you see happening download our Think Before You Pink Toolkit to learn more about the politics of breast cancer and how to hold pinkwashers accountable. If you like what you read, share the link with your friends.
Our mantra is: “less awareness, more action.” Everyone is aware of breast cancer. We need action that changes the ways the breast cancer industry does business; action that does not assume synthetic chemicals are innocent until proven guilty (of the 80,000 synthetic chemicals on the market, most of which have never been assessed for their impact on our health); action that addresses the fact that too many women lack health insurance; action that turns the tide on the inequities that mean African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than their white counterparts, though they get the disease less; action that produces more effective, less toxic treatments, including and especially for metastatic disease–metastatic breast cancer is what kills women, yet only 2% of research funding goes to treating metastatic disease. Despite all the money raised in the name of breast cancer today, too many women are diagnosed with breast cancer, too many women are dying, and we still don’t know enough about why. We believe that by joining together to create system-wide changes that benefit the health of all women, we can end the epidemic. Together we can do far more than we can do alone. To join Breast Cancer Action and get involved in our work, sign up here.