L.A. Times Writer publishes last opinion piece that questions the entire breast cancer industry.
Laurie Becklund, former writer for the Los Angeles Times, recently died from the only deadly form of breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer (MBC), and published an opinion piece in the L.A. Times titled “As I lay dying.” The piece told the story of her battle with breast cancer and called into question many of the processes of the breast cancer industry and even attacked well-known breast cancer mogul Susan G. Komen.
One important point she had was that early detection does not cure cancer.
Becklund: “I had more than 20 mammograms, and none of them caught my disease. In fact, we now have significant studies showing that routine mammogram screening, which may result in misdiagnoses, unnecessary treatment and radiation overexposure, can harm more people than it helps.”
To detect a cancer early in many cases means to catch it before it produces symptoms. That is a problem, because not every precancerous condition will actually become cancer or not the type of cancer that can affect a person’s life, but every case is treated as if it was the same type of cancer. Mammogram screening is responsible for about 25% of overdiagnosis in breast cancer, according to an article published in Oxford Journals. The overdiagnosis may harm patients and lead to “overuse of anticancer therapies” such as chemotherapy.
31% over diagnosed
A different article published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 31% of women in 2008, that’s about 70,000 women, were overdiagnosed with breast cancer.
When Becklund was first diagnosed, she was treated with a lumpectomy and radiation even though she had the most “curable” type of breast cancer. People who go five years without the return of cancer cells are told that they will likely not have cancer and that they are survivors, so when Becklund reached her five-year mark, she thought she was free of the disease.
However, in 2009 Becklund received the worst news; her cancer had not only returned, but it became metastatic and had spread to her bones, liver, lungs, and brain. Metastatic breast cancer is the only form of breast cancer that can kill people, and MBC is defined as cancer that originates in the breast area but then travels to other organs and begins attacking them. MBC is not curable, just treatable, and makes up an estimated 30% of all breast cancer cases.
Despite the overwhelming need for accountability in MBC-diagnosed patients because of how many lives it takes, the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program that provides cancer statistics does not recognize MBC in its statistics. Since these patients are not required to state that they have MBC, not even on their death certificate, Becklund writes that “we are literally uncounted.” Becklund calls out the medical establishment for failing MBC patients by not recognizing them because although it’s estimated that 40,000 patients die annually and 250,000 await their death, there is no way of knowing if this number is much higher.
Becklund is wary of organizations that attempt to raise awareness for breast cancer with false statements, especially Susan G. Komen, since their mission is to raise awareness for “early detection for a cure.” Since Becklund denies that early detection is even helpful, and 79% of Komen’s money goes to education programs, this has contributed little to the survival rate of metastatic breast cancer patients. In the last 30 years, the $2.6 billion that has been donated by Susan G. Komen has had little impact where it matters.
Susan G. Komen’s mission is not helping anyone
“Promise me you’ll never wear a pink ribbon in my name or drop a dollar into a bucket that goes to breast cancer ‘awareness’ for ‘early detection for a cure,’ the mantra of fund-raising juggernaut Susan G. Komen, which has propagated a distorted message about breast cancer and how to ‘cure’ it,”Becklund wrote.
Susan G. Komen’s income was $287,409,269 in 2014 and allegedly 79% went into its programs for education, research and support, yet besides being aware, the money spent for over 30 years ($2.6 billion worth) did little for the survival rates of the breast cancer that actually kills – MBC.
Although many MBC patients die less than 2 years after the cancer spreads to just one organ, Becklund’s body fought for 7 years even though it had spread to all four of the possible organs. Her fighting body paired with her fighting words against the breast cancer industry remind us to always questions the establishments to find better solutions to huge issues such as cancer that are taking the lives of loved ones.