By Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director
I’ve been closely watching the Occupy movement both locally and as it’s spread across the nation over the past few months. I’m inspired by the coming together of all these people to make systemic changes and I am repeatedly struck by the parallels between Occupy’s mission and Breast Cancer Action’s work to challenge polluters and pinkwashersand our actions to put patients before profit.
The forces that have united people across the country and driven them into the streets to protest—the profit-driven focus of corporate leaders, the short-sighted decisions of policy makers, and the refusal of people in positions of responsibility to do what is just and right—also fuel the continued status quo in the breast cancer epidemic. From atrazine to automobiles, from firearms to factory farms, we know that the interests of industry and the interests of public health rarely, if ever, align. I am starkly reminded that BCAction’s core principle to retain a strong, independent voice advocating on behalf of women’s health is more relevant and vital than ever.
For 21 fearless years, thousands of us have come together as Breast Cancer Action to carry the voices of women affected by breast cancer. Together we have worked to shift the balance of power away from those who would profit from this disease and into the hands of patients who deserve higher standards, better treatment, equal access. We were the first national breast cancer organization to adopt a strict corporate contributions policy over 15 years ago: we accept no money from any company that profits from or contributes to cancer—including Pharma, chemical companies, and insurance companies. This frees us from conflicts of interest so we can advocate unapologetically and fiercely on behalf of all women living with and at risk of breast cancer. Women you love and women like you.
- We put women first by insisting on regulatory reform that eliminates cancer-linked toxins in our environment. Our independence allows us to challenge corporations’ ability to develop, use, and release chemicals known and suspected to increase our risk of breast cancer. This year BCAction members took action to ban known carcinogens methyl Iodide and bisphenol A (BPA), and demand a national cancer prevention strategy all to stop cancer before it starts.
- We put women first by following the science on breast cancer screening and treatment, and providing factsheets, webinars, toolkits, and personalized information and referrals—free from Pharma influence. We don’t tell women what to do: we educate and empower them to work with their doctors in making their own decisions, based on their health priorities, values, and risk tolerance [See the article by Tracy Weitz in this issue].
- We put women first by going beyond the headlines and “science by press release” to analyze new research in breast cancer. We follow the science and tell women the whole truth about research results, such as “pills for prevention.” This year we expressed concern about Aromasin, currently used to treat breast cancer, being touted for breast cancer prevention. We believe a focus on pills for prevention fuels chemical solutions, Pharma sales and diverts resources from finding and eradicating environmental causes of, as well as effective treatments for, breast cancer.
- We put women first at the FDA, where we insist that new drugs must have demonstrated benefit for patients—not just fueling Pharma profits—in order to be approved. Women deserve to know that the medications they’re taking work for their health, not just the corporate bottom line. This year, the FDA followed our recommendation and revoked the drug Avastin for treatment of metastatic breast cancer over concerns about the drug’s safety and effectiveness.
- We put women first in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging Myriad’s patent on the breast cancer (BRCA 1&2) genes, which are in each of us, whether or not they are mutated. We’re plaintiffs in this case because the patent, which accounts for 88 percent of Myriad’s sales, harms patients’ ability to get accurate results, second opinions, affordable testing, and the benefit of research. Our lawyers at the ACLU have filed a petition for the case to be heard by the Supreme Court.
- We put women first through our Think Before You Pink campaign, where we hold accountable companies that profit from affiliating themselves with breast cancer, while simultaneously contributing to the disease. This October 5,000 activists like you joined us in demanding that Susan G. Komen for the Cure recall its pinkwashing perfume, which contains chemicals regulated as toxic and hazardous.
We have a mighty track record of success but we confront big challenges and as an organization we rise to meet those challenges on a daily basis. We are adapting new tools and programs to advocate for better regulatory and legal reforms, to educate and empower women affected by breast cancer, and to provide effective training for advocates across the nation. Our independence allows us to do the work that others cannot, which is why your investment in our work now is so important. Your support enables us to work every day for the systemic changes needed to address and end the breast cancer epidemic.
Together, we are altering the course of this epidemic. Together, we are ensuring that people come before profits and that women get the information they need, the justice they deserve, and the change they demand.
From all of us at Breast Cancer Action, I want to personally thank you. Please join the efforts of thousands of women and their famillies by making a generous year-end donation to Breast Cancer Action today.