The Mammogram Myth, Alive and Well on “Good Morning America”
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. Read More
Cause 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. Read More
Riding the tails of the pink ribbon
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
“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. Read More
Chemoprevention is no magic bullet
by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, June 27, 2013
New guidelines for chemoprevention are hailed as “historic” and a “game changer.” Certainly, the promise to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer by 40 to 50 percent sounds great, but if the actual (absolute) numbers are far less impressive – less than 2 percent— and these drugs promote blood clots, cancers, cataracts, and other harms, maybe it’s important to read the fine print and ask some tough questions before getting too excited. Read More
Life-Saving Drugs, Lethal Prices
by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, May 31, 2013.
More than 90 percent of the anticancer agents approved by the FDA from 2005 to 2009 cost more than $20,000 for a 12-week course of treatment. With skyrocketing prices, the oncology drug industry has grown substantially from under $5 billion in 1998 to $19 billion in 2008 to $80 billion in 2012. Market researchers forecast that by 2018 the industry will reach over $100 billion. Huge profit margins and returns on investment attract pharmaceutical investors. But at what cost to patients? Read more
by Gayle Sulik, CNN, May 24, 2013.
(CNN) — Angelina Jolie, when writing about her preventive double mastectomy, did not discuss how much her surgeries cost, but she did mention that many women would not be able to afford the $3,000 to $4,000 test that led her to make the decision. What she failed to say was why the test costs so much. The reason is this: In 1998 Myriad Genetics patented two genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. With its exclusive rights, Myriad developed a test for mutations on those genes trademarked “BRACAnalysis.” Because it essentially owns the genes, Myriad is the only company that can conduct the test, so it sets the price. Read More
Angelina Jolie and the One Percent
by Gayle Sulik, Scientific American, May 20, 2013. (Picked up by Yahoo).
After learning that she had inherited a mutation on one of the so-called breast cancer genes, actress Angelina Jolie decided to have a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. She also plans to have her ovaries removed to reduce her risk of ovarian cancer. Jolie explained her medical decision in an op-ed in The New York Times, saying that she decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much [she] could. Since the Angelina Jolie story broke, there’s been a flurry of discussion. But we should remember an important caveat about Angelina Jolie’s situation. Namely, that it doesn’t apply to most women. Read More
Barbara Brenner and the Road Less Pink
by Gayle Sulik, Ms. Magazine Blog, May 20, 2013.
I met Barbara Brenner in a book. In a collection of scholarly essays, she wrote the final substantive chapter, about women creating a breast cancer movement. I had just begun my own investigation of breast cancer culture, industry and advocacy. I re-read Barbara’s words many times. Today, as I gaze beyond the post-it notes, tabs and highlights that cover the book, I see how insightful and prophetic her words were. Read More
The Mammography Debate: To Screen or Not to Screen?
by Gayle Sulik, ShareCare, May 20, 2013.
In a much-tweeted cover story for the New York Times Magazine, Peggy Orenstein recently wrote that she once believed a mammogram saved her life. Sixteen years later, after dealing with breast cancer round two, she says she now wonders whether that first mammogram mattered at all. “Would the outcome have been the same,” she writes in Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer, “had I bumped into the cancer on my own years later? Researchers have asked this same question for many years now. Read More