Public Writing

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Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth111018012923-mammogram-breast-cancer-x-ray-story-top

by Gayle Sulik and Bonnie Spanier, CNN, March 18, 2014.

For decades, belief in some version of “early detection cures breast cancer and saves lives” has shaped our view. In the 1970s, when women like Betty Ford and the late Shirley Temple Black were lifting the veil of secrecy and shame surrounding breast cancer, finding the disease “early” meant being alert to symptoms to find a tumor before it got so large it poisoned the body. In this context, it was logical to try to find tumors before they got to this point. Today “early detection” means something very different.

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Canadian Study Finds, Addition of Screening Mammograms Adds No Benefit but Causes Harm

by Gayle Sulik and Bonnie Spanier, Breast Cancer Consortium, February 18, 2014.

Clamoring over screening protocols has started anew with the release of a Canadian study confirming earlier results that annual mammography screening did not reduce breast cancer deaths. Instead, it contributed to the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that would not have been life-threatening in the first place. We’ve heard it all before, with varying degrees of belief, but there’s something different about this study and what it means for women. Not only did screening mammography fail to reduce breast cancer mortality, there is new evidence that overdiagnosis and overtreatment are major hazards for women of average risk.

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Screenshot AdamsLisaCROPAre There Ethics to Tweeting Your Illness?

by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, January 15, 2014.

There is a major kerfuffle in mass media about two journalists and a blogger with metastatic breast cancer. Guardian columnist Emma Keller and her husband, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, wrote opinion pieces about Lisa Bonchek Adams, a woman living with metastatic breast cancer who writes about her life on her blog and via Twitter.

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Amy Robach Story Spreads Heartfelt Misinformation

by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, December 10, 2014.

After Good Morning America’s Amy Robach announced that her on-air mammogram got her a breast cancer diagnosis, the correspondent’s “I got lucky by catching it early” so “every woman should get a mammogram” message spread like wildfire. Between the emotional story and the ongoing mammogram wars, plain truths about breast cancer (e.g. biology and evidence) keep getting lost.

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The Mammogram Myth, Alive and Well on “Good Morning America”Robach Mammogram

by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today “Essential Reads,” November 14, 2013.

Good Morning America’s Amy Robach announced that the on-air mammogram she had as part of the show’s breast cancer awareness promotion, ended up getting her a breast cancer diagnosis. It remains to be seen whether the mammogram will make a life-saving difference, but the fanfare surrounding her diagnosis adds to the confusion about the potential benefits and harms of universal screening.

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nfl-pinkx-largeCause Marketing Is Not Philanthropy.

by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today “Essential Reads”, October 27, 2013.

The month of October fills the marketplace with pink-ribboned products and breast-cancer-awareness-themed events and fundraisers. Many people ask, “Where does the money go?” No one seems to know. In the midst of it all, cause marketing is cast as everything from the saving grace, the necessarily evil, to the pinkwashing pilferer. There is probably some truth to each characterization. Like everything, there is a context.

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Riding the Tails of the Pink Ribbon05 Harbinger Belt

by Gayle Sulik, Oxford University Press Blog, October 10, 2013.

The breast cancer brand has become so successful in forging emotional connections with potential consumers that the marketplace is filled with branded products, services, events, and advertisements that use the brand’s familiar associations (i.e. fear of the disease, hope for a cure, and the goodness of the cause) in the name of awareness and improving women’s lives. Those that incorporate the breast cancer brand into their business portfolios may, or may not, have actual ties to the breast cancer cause. Regardless, those who use the brand tend to make money, fortify public reputations and increase visibility and consumer loyalty.

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The She-roCh3-Cancer-VixenSuperCROP

by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, September 29, 2013.

She is the protagonist of the epic breast cancer survivor story, the central figure of the breast cancer brand. The she-ro’s upbeat attitude, passion, and triumphant survival create a cancer-fighting aesthetic that encourages other plucky survivors and their supporters to support a multi-billion dollar pink ribbon industry as they live, laugh, love, and shop “for the cure.” Those who do not fit her mold, however, have no place in pink ribbon culture.

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Avon Great People Image 16 copyBreast Cancer, Concept Brand with Pink Ribbon Logo

by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, August 31, 2013.

The pink ribbon functions as a logo for a “set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose” the breast cancer brand. The brand capitalizes on emotional responses related to fear of the disease, hope for a cure, and the goodness of the cause. The logo alone doesn’t make the brand. Emotional attachment is required.

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“Carcinoma”: What’s in a Name?

by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, July 31, 2013.

A working group from the National Cancer Institute suggests eliminating the word “cancer” from some common diagnoses. If patients and physicians are less frightened by the “C” word, they may be less likely to seek treatments that may be unneeded and potentially harmful. The consensus comes after years of considerable discussion in the scientific and medical communities. Consistent with the data-driven focus of evidence-based medicine, it may indeed be the time for a change.

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