Health News Review

First, I sincerely wish ABC’s Amy Robach good health and good outcomes after she chose to have a mammogram on the air and, after it showed that she had cancer, further chose to have bilateral mastectomy surgery. These are difficult choices and difficult times for her.

But almost every single one of the hundreds of news stories and web articles about her case have been shallow and incomplete.

There are some problems with her announcement – both in terms of the inferences made to other women and in terms of journalism ethics.

First, the message to other women.

I haven’t seen any report of what her mammogram actually showed.  And what did the biopsy that followed the mammogram show?

Normally, I’d say that’s none of our business.

But when a network TV personality says the mammogram saved her life, that changes the discussion.  If you’re going to use that national television platform to announce your choices and to make claims about what a mammogram did for you and how it might inspire other women, then we should at least know more about the pathology of your cancer – something, as I already said, I normally would say is none of our business.

As I am drafting this, I just now see that noted breast cancer expert Dr. Susan Love has written much the same thing – before I could complete my post and get it published.  She wrote:

“Did the mammogram save her life, as one doctor was quoted as saying? The answer, of course, is we don’t know. While mammography is capable of finding about 26% of cancers at a point where it makes a life-saving difference in the outcome, it also finds many lesions which would never have gone on to be life-threatening and others which will still be life-threatening in spite of early detection and rigorous screening.

The problem is not the mammogram as a detection tool, but the natural history of the disease, which brings us to the crucial point…not all breast cancers are the same. Before a treatment is prescribed or chosen, it is critical that a woman or man knows what kind of breast cancer they have of the roughly 5-7 kinds we can now recognize. There are probably many more kinds that we just don’t know about or know how to recognize yet. The behavior of the cancer is dictated not as much by when it is found as by what kind it is and how that kind usually behaves. This information informs the decisions about treatment. …

We all need to help tone down the hype that mammograms are the be-all/end-all life-saving tool and stop fueling mass fear that a questionable mammogram is a potential death sentence.”

So while many statements have already been made about how and why Ms. Robach’s story might influence other women, there is this other side to consider. There are potential harms from mammography, whether a woman chooses to consider those or not.  They are clear.  They are reported.  There are data to show how often they occur.

Now the journalism ethics.

I believe it is unethical for network television journalists to use their celebrity status to talk about their own health care decisions and to suggest what other people should do.

I’ve written about some journalists’ unhealthy advocacy of various screening tests for years. I thought it was wrong and I wrote about it when:

(Anyone see an NBC pattern here?)

There are countless other examples – especially on local TV news.  And there are some in print.  But the national television platform is still influential – and is used, in my opinion, unethically when it delivers an advocacy, opinion-based message on what should be a highly-individualized, evidence-based, shared decision-making discussion between patient and doctor.

Please don’t write to me accusing me of being anti-screening.  That will only show that you didn’t read this piece.  This is not anti-screening.  This is about discussing the known tradeoffs between potential benefits and potential harms in mammography.  And it’s about journalists sticking to facts, not offering opinions, advice, or their own personal stories in ways that are meant to influence others’ decisions or even in ways that might potentially have that impact.

Addendum on November 18:

Also see these pieces published after we posted ours:

Addendum on December 10: Gayle Sulik, Ph,D, author of Pink Ribbon Blues, wrote on Psychology Today, “Amy Robach Story Spreads Heartfelt Misinformation: Plain Truths about breast cancer lost in mythology and wishful thinking.”

 

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Comments

Sabine Kelischek posted on November 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Thank you got this rational, well-considered essay. As a practicing gynecologist I deal with women’s irrational fears and hopes regarding breast cancer every day. We need less emotion, more thoughtful weighing of risks and benefits.

Meg Bowen posted on November 12, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Excellent piece Gary, well done.

Marjorie Gallece posted on November 12, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Thanks for this and also for the observation about how NBC tends to promote medical imaging/screening stories. I often wonder if this has anything to do with possible relationships with Avista Capital Partners who invest heavily in media, healthcare and energy. I haven’t cross referenced the boardroom names but wonder. Just conjecture.

Sydney Leibel posted on November 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Your article is devoid of compassion. Something that is paramount in the practice of medicine. The risks and benefits of getting a mammogram should be discussed at length with a physician, not you.

Dr. Larry Norton, a breast cancer expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “We see real human beings getting screening mammograms so their cancer is detected at stages when we have curative treatments,” Norton continues. “When people talk about the downsides of screening, it doesn’t compute in the minds of people who are actually in contact with human beings.”

    Gary Schwitzer posted on November 12, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Sydney,

    Any news story that does not address the tradeoffs between potential benefits and harms is incomplete. That is what we were addressing.

    When you quoted Dr. Norton, you apparently overlooked the comment above left by practicing gynecologist Sabine Kelischek, who called this article a “rational, well-considered essay” and who deals with the human beings mentioned in Dr. Norton’s quote. Why don’t you go back and read Dr. Kelischek’s full comment before you rush to judgment about what I wrote?

    And what about what Dr. Susan Love wrote? Dr. Love has certainly been “in contact with human beings” facing breast cancer decisions.

    And Dr. Norton’s quote also doesn’t take into account that some of the people who try to educate the public about the tradeoffs between potential benefits and the potential downsides of screening are some of the most caring, compassionate doctors in medicine.

Mike Chary posted on November 13, 2013 at 6:57 am

Ms. Robach said she had a mammogram, had a followup, and then two weeks of tests. Not just a mammogram. The journalism? Eh. I can see where you are coming from, but they aired it and she had cancer. The results of the test seem germane to the story, which is after all a human interest story.

Annette Bar-Cohen posted on November 13, 2013 at 10:48 am

While we are concerned about Ms. Robach’s health, you are completely correct, Gary, in questioning the ethics and public health value of what she has done in promoting her personal experience and non-evidence based assumptions from a national platform. This example will set us back significantly from the much more rational path many are beginning to take in understanding the harms and benefits of mammography screening. Based on the work of Gil Welch in the US and Michael Baum in the UK and others, the conversation has begun to turn on the fact that breast cancer is multiple diseases that behave differently, that early detection is not the key issue for most types, that mammography-diagnosed DCIS is inflating the ranks of patients without reducing mortality and on and on. But while Ms. Robach’s personal story will resonate and make us take a step backwards – it will not distract us from the work many of us are engaged in that actually focuses on saving lives – the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 – knowing how to prevent the disease in the first place and how to stop deaths from metastasis by 2020.

Greg Pawelski posted on November 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I remind everyone of the journalistic nature of Gary’s premise: “But almost every single one of the hundreds of news stories and web articles about her case have been shallow and incomplete.”

EAE posted on November 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Mr. Schwitzer hit the nail on the head with how incomplete and often vague these media stories are, Screenings are wonderful. Your scheduling of them should be between you and your doctor, not the media. The media is good at drawing attention to them, but should not be used as medical advice.
Now to mammograms in particular: I am a breast cancer survivor, inflammatory breast cancer stage 3B, unfortunately promoted up to stage 4 (so maybe not a survivor after all). I fully support mammograms, but mammograms did NOT save my life. Year after year, including mere months before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was told my mammograms were about as perfect as they get. The other thing they push, check for a lump, well, I didn’t have one. I had a rash!
We women are not told the other signs of breast cancers, generally the rarer and more aggressive and deadly ones. We are not told that not all breast cancers show up on mammograms. We are told the wonderful statistics for stage 1 (5 years out only) and not told about the lifetime risk that all survivors of stages 1, 2, and 3 have to metastasize into stage 4. (It’s 30% by the way).
Another thing left out of these celebrity stories is that many women do not get to choose between lumpectomies or mastectomies. There are many of us for whom medically there is no choice. We do not wake up to reconstructed breasts either, because if you are getting more treatment, many doctors insist you wait. Also, a mastectomy that takes skin and lymph nodes is more mutilating than the skin-sparing mastectomies done as an alternative to a lumpectomy. It is true what the doctor on the news report said about not doing radical mastectomies anymore, but she did not mention that the modified radical mastectomy is still common.
Why no reconstruction for some of us? Chemo will hinder reconstruction healing. Intense radiation will damage reconstruction. It will also require a lengthy wait to heal (a year or more) before reconstruction can be done, if it still can. Also, the more extensive mastectomies require much more complex surgeries for reconstruction, therefore regaining overall health beforehand is an issue that also causes delays.
It is good that awareness is being created, but we need to get more complete information out there. The media seems to like feel-good stories with easy answers and happy endings.

    mary posted on November 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I admire you!
    I have being doing a lot of research. Inflammatory breast cancer tends to show up between screenings and it is an invasive type of cancer. Very different from DCIS which is not cancer. But is still treated as a precancerous condition. Please people: I beg you to use the internet to do some research before you agree to biopsies, and treatments. Fear is not saving our lives.

Tru posted on November 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Thanks again, Gary, for again being the voice of sanity in yet another blare of celebrity breast-cancer “Early detection saved my life!” diagnosis hoopla. I can’t help but wonder whether the NBC connection to GE, a manufacturer of mammography machines, doesn’t feed the “synergy” on their network a great deal. And I was annoyed to see Matt Lauer and Al Roker last week getting prostate exams in a way that implied every man should get one. They paid lip service to the “talk to your doctor about it” message, but what really came through was: “You should be like us and get this.” Just as young women are being frightened into thinking they need to demand mammograms and vigorously check their breasts for any sign of change lest they be struck down with breast cancer, young men are getting the message that prostate cancer could strike anytime and they must be ever-vigilant with screening, whether or not it makes real sense.

ButDoctorIHatePink posted on November 13, 2013 at 6:36 pm

I agree with you. It’s sad we have yet another news woman who chooses the ideology of survivorship rather than using her ability and her platform to educate.

The truth is, women are being overscreened to the point of having unnecessary mastectomies for DCIS which nobody knows much about. I, like you, am not saying to stop screening, and I know that there are no good solutions for DCIS and mastectomy is often necessary, but we need a better context for what we find on those screenings. DCIS (assuming she has it) may even go away on its own, or women can live with it for decades without it causing problems, yet we screen, find it, and now women are removing breasts over it. And not just the diseased breast, but both, because of some cells that are not yet cancer and may never BE cancer. Everybody needs to stop and take a breath and figure out what is really going on, and understand that mammography is not a lifesaving tool, just one tool among many.

As a woman diagnosed with Stage II cancer, who went on to have metastatic cancer to my liver (the terminal stage) I find all these news women “coming out” about their life-saving mammography, jumping on the pink bandwagon, and describing their situation without context as hurtful to those of us who will die of breast cancer.

The ONLY women who die of breast cancer are those of us, like me, who have metastatic disease, and we are routinely ignored in the media and in the culture. We are the ugly side of cancer – who wants to see me now, 90 pounds, struggling to breathe, in pain, barely able to stay awake? I am not a survivor, or a warrior, or anything but a very sick woman. No, the culture wants to see a “brave” woman who amputates her breast and then goes on to be the Survivor, jumping out of airplanes, racing off in cars, overcoming cancer. This is so ingrained in breast cancer culture now, fueled by these news people, and the media in general, that the truth is obscured. Breast cancer is not a deadly disease for everybody and nobody dies of cancer of the breast. It is when it moves that it becomes dangerous, but we with mets are left out of the national conversation, and since Elizabeth Edwards or Lynne Redgrave, when have you heard of one?

The truth is early stage cancer does not kill. Almost all women are diagnosed early stage, even without regular mammography, and yet 40% Stage 1-III go on to have metastatic disease after treatment. Early diagnosis does not stop some cancers from spreading, and many cancers may have already spread at the time of early stage diagnosis, and some women don’t find that out for years, even decades. The mammography “saving lives” myth is just that. A myth. It detects cancer, period and you often don’t find out for decades whether it was caught early or not.

Awareness was for last century – research is for this century. We need to research if/when and why DCIS becomes invasive cancer, and we need to find out why cancer moves in some women and not in others. Women need the information so they can stop amputating body parts over a condition that cannot kill them and on the other end of the coin, they need to become aware that you don’t survive metastatic cancer, and that is the only one you die from.

A final thought: a mastectomy can leave a person with lifelong back and shoulder problems as I know all too well. It is not benign and you are not amputating warts. Women were designed to have breasts. Doctors need to stop cutting off healthy body parts as well. When bone cancer is found in one leg, we don’t routinely cut off both legs, so why is this accepted practice in breast cancer? The odds of cancer coming back in the other breast is negligible, same as bone or others… and there is no reason for it and putting yourself at risk for all that can come from this operation. Our society is so focused on breasts that it is hard to have a rational conversation about it.

I would really love a famous person who had DCIS (Martina Navratalova anyone?) come out and admit what her condition really is and use her story to educate and enlighten, but that will never happen. The “near death survivor” story is just too compelling and ego-stroking. Not to mention, people need to believe they lost their body part for something other than lack of medical knowledge.

It’s sad all around, ever way you cut this pie.

    Medreport posted on November 14, 2013 at 1:53 am

    Powerful post ButDoctor. Thank you for writing it.

    Donna Pinto posted on November 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Right on Gary! I was fueled by this story and wrote in many comments on the ABC/GMA website — one of which was written directly to the producers of ABC/GMA suggesting they do a more balanced show regarding the truth about mammograms (including the harms and over-diagnosis). The post by “ButDoctorIHatePink” is excellent. Thank you to all who use their voice, experience and wisdom to help shed the light and the truth……I have a blog DCIS 411 and a website DCIS Redefined to help those diagnosed with DCIS. THANK YOU and please keep writing these articles!!

    mary posted on November 26, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you. I did my homework. I understand what you are saying. No pink ribbons for me. No more money wasting on mammography propaganda. I support research on the causes and on cure of real cancers. Enough of “cancer survivor” and pink ribbon propaganda. We need to find a cure for real cancers and stop wasting resources treating pseudo cancers.

DrAttai posted on November 13, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Thank you so much for this post, and for including the comments from Dr. Love. These stories always make me cringe, and while the celebrity or public figure may think that they are helping or inspiring others, in reality they often cause quite a bit of harm by spreading misinformation. Not every patient is a good advocate, and often the more public the figure, the worse the advocate they are. I appreciate this and all of your posts.

The Savvy Sister posted on November 14, 2013 at 6:56 am

Wait…you are watching mainstream media and you are expecting them to get it RIGHT?! The only thing they want is RATINGS. They were probably jumping for joy that Amy had breast cancer. (not in public of course) and the mammogram machine (GE and others) were probably too
I feel the most sorry for Amy who has barely had time to let this life event sink in before she has to air it to the world! And now she will never be left alone…
The first thing I thought of was in line with what Tru wrote: Some kind of connection with the mammogram machine manufacturers…..
Leave medical advice to the medical professionals!
And I am SO GLAD I missed Matt getting a digital exam..were there close ups and stuff?….jeez. WTF?

Alia Bucciarelli posted on November 14, 2013 at 9:19 am

Thanks, Gary. I was hoping you would comment on this.

BRCAgirl posted on November 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

My guess is that Ms. Robach made her double-mastectomy decision based on genetic testing results. The BRCA gene will increase odds of recurrence substantially. But I agree, more transparency would have been nice. If you are going to exploit this person as a network boon, tell the complete story.

Pink Ribbon Blues posted on November 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Agreed, Gary. I’m also concerned about the trend of infotainment masking as health information, and the overzealous selling of universal screening. Here’s a piece I wrong on Psychology Today about it, “Mammogram Myth, Alive and Well on “Good Morning America.” Thank you for keeping your eyes open, and sharing what you see! – - Gayle Sulik

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pink-ribbon-blues/201311/the-mammogram-myth-alive-and-well-good-morning-america

Pam Scott posted on November 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm

I also wondered why there was no mention of a biopsy and no details about what type of breast cancer she has. It must be bad news if she is not talking about the type she has. Maybe she is protecting her children from hearing about it on TV.

Dr. JRZ posted on November 16, 2013 at 8:28 am

After scanning through these posts, I have noticed that no one has commented on the amount of time that went by from when she had the mammogram on Octobier 1st and her announcement. During that period she had time to reflect, discuss with her doctors her options based on whatever her pathology showed and make the decision that is right for her as it is a deeply personal one. She made it clear and stated that this was the right decision for her. I did not get the feeling that she was advocating this for everyone. As a physician who underwent the same procedure 2 months ago I know how deeply personal that decision is.

    Gary Schwitzer posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Ms. Robach clearly stepped outside the boundaries of journalism ethics and crossed over into advocacy when she wrote:

    “I can only hope my story will do the same and inspire every woman who hears it to get a mammogram, to take a self-exam. No excuses. It is the difference between life and death.”

Laurence Alter posted on November 19, 2013 at 4:43 am

Gary:

Why do you *lower* yourself and condescend to reporting on televised news???

I’m waiting for an answer.

I’ve asked you this, before. You don’t seem to learn the message:
audio-visual (“broadcast”) journalism is several levels or tiers below real reporting. It’s glamor; it’s glory. Do you get the story?

Why pick and choose WHICH news story from television has worth?

Respectfully,

Laurence Alter

    Gary Schwitzer posted on November 19, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Laurence,

    Yes, you have made this point before – repeatedly. And I’d really rather not have to respond to it again.

    And I have given you an answer before – as in our exchange of comments following this post: http://www.healthnewsreview.org/2013/07/life-and-death-in-assisted-living/.

    So let’s put this circuitous communication to rest once and for all.

    If you don’t think commenting on television news is worthwhile, then let me suggest that you refrain from reading our reviews of such material. It clearly isn’t worth your time and only riles you up.

    Meantime, ABC’s Good Morning America – the program in question here – draws an average of more than 5 million viewers per weekday. (Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/business/media/gma-beats-today-over-a-full-season.html)

    The NYT further reports, “While the mornings are the most lucrative part of the day for the network news divisions, the evenings remain essential as well, and there NBC ended the season ahead, as it has for 17 years. “NBC Nightly News” had more than 8.3 million viewers on an average night, 700,000 more than ABC’s “World News.”

    I think that’s a potentially pretty powerful platform, and if I can make suggestions to improve their messages, I’m going to continue to do it.

    So I don’t view my television reviews as “lowering” myself. It is done in recognition of existing network television influence – and an inferior product that reaches millions of people every day.

    Perhaps you should launch your own blog. Seems like you have a lot of ideas you’d like to put forth. Have at it.

dee posted on November 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Did we ever find out what type or stage Amy’s cancer is? And yes, I too would normally say that it is none of our business but the way they covered it, put it out there I think it is not being nosey to ask the questions. I wish her all the best and a swift recovery. But I think she must know more that they gave out or why would she immediately decide on double mastectomy?

Diane Markowitz posted on November 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Great article Gary!

The public was given no diagnostic information about why she chose mastectomies over lumpectomies. No information doesn’t help American women; it harms them by promoting fear.
In the course of Amy’s mastectomy, her doctor found an additional cancerous tumor, not detected by MRI, or mammography. Doesn’t that point out the deficiencies of these screenings? Of course, we still don’t know the details of her diagnosis: how large was the cancer found? Was it found in one breast or two? Were they DCIS or something else? How can we evaluate and put in perspective Amy’s course of treatment without information? We can’t.

I believe Amy did more harm than good by giving partial information. I refuse to live in fear. Mammograms are a very poor diagnostic tool. There are so many benign conditions in the breast that radiographers can’t distinguish between what is cancer and what is normal. Therefore, there are a huge number of unnecessary biopsies. Additionally, sometimes even with a benign finding from a biopsy, a surgeon will want to see the patient for further treatment. That happened to me and, much to my surprise, I became extremely angry. I refused to see the surgeon. I realize now that I felt threatened that he was going to suggest surgery, that wasn’t needed. This would have resulted in my breast looking deformed. I wanted no part of that. In the article, “The Untold Message of Breast Cancer Awareness Month” by Jeffrey Dach MD, it states, “Secondly. the most likely outcome of a positive mammogram is an unnecessary biopsy, causing emotional distress, breast deformity and scarring. 80% of all breast biopsies done for a positive finding on a mammogram are negative for cancer.(7)” The article is: http://www.drdach.com/Mammography_Month.html

ABC News needs to raise public awareness of the limits and harms of mammography through full disclosure of the facts. Reporters should be required to give full disclosure of the results of their mammograms, MRIs, and biopsies to the public, so that we can use this information to make informed decisions regarding our health. If they don’t want to disclose the findings, they should not go public. Partial information is worse than no information because it is misleading and increases fear. Here is an interesting article about mammograms: http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/20/opinion/welch-mammogram-robach/

mary posted on November 26, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Exactly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please give the full diagnosis. What type of cancer?
Without knowing what type of cancer she had it is impossible to figure out if she really had cancer or if she had one of so many suspicious abnormalities (i.e. DCIS) which are not cancer or are non invasive cancer that will not be the cause of death if left untreated. PLEASE people do your homework: search for “overdiagnosed and overtreated” and you might start questioning authority and stop being so scared.You need to find doctors who think outside the box.

mary posted on November 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Again do your own research: most invasive cancers show up between screenings and they are truly invasive. Screening does not save lives! It is a bag full of abnormalities. If you are a doctor and you see an abnormality you order a biopsy and even treatment just in case.

"tareco" posted on November 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm

You were right the first time–it’s none of our damn business!!!!! I am absolutely floored by the posts here—that there are truly that many ignorant people in the world–including the “doctor”. When Amy is ready to reveal more, she will. As someone who just buried my 48 year old sister 3 days before Amy’s announcement, I applaud her for stating what she has so far. Mammograms CAN and DO save lives and if my sister and follwed my advice, maybe she’d still be here and her YOUNG children would have a mommy to grow up with! Her doctor should be sued because when she first found the lump, I told her to go have it checked and she refused. Why? “Because we have no family history” As her older sister and someone who has been doing my breast exams since the age of 16, I was upset with her for that. When I finally convinced her to go to check it out, the doctor told her it was nothing and didn’t do anything about it. It wasn’t until about 4 years later, during a physicail exam with her OB while she was pregnant, that the doctor discovered the lump and and the rest is history. At that point, it was very aggressive and while she did go into remission for a couple of years, it came back and took her life. So please, please, yes ladies, educate yourselves and examine yourselves and I don’t care what anyone says–get your mammograms YEARLY!

    Gary Schwitzer posted on November 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I often reflect on the tone of some of the public dialogue about screening. The previous comment is one example. Quoting from it:

    • Those who raise issues about evidence are “ignorant people”
    • A further evidence-be-damned comment: “I don’t care what anyone says- get your mammograms YEARLY.”

    Somehow we need to elevate the discussion. That’s what we try to do on this site.

      Diane Markowitz posted on November 30, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Tareco,

      When your sister found a lump in her breast, you’re right that she should have checked it out via a mammogram and or MRI. If the results of the mammogram and MRI were inconclusive,as they often are, she would have a biopsy and found out it was cancer and what stage it was. Then she could determine what her treatment options were. Did her lump grow larger or change in any way? That evidence would tell her she needed to quickly find out if the lump was cancer or benign. The doctor was 100% wrong by assuming a lump “was nothing”. He definitely needed her to find out what the lump was.

      Amy Robach’s case was totally different from your sister’s. This was about a reporter, without any lumps in her breast, who just turned 40, and ABC told her to follow the ACS guidelines and have a mammogram. There was no necessity for it. It is true that x-rays do damage cells and often women don’t know how large an exposure of ionizing radiation they are getting. Thirty four years of mammograms with unknown radiation exposure could and does cause cancer. Therefore, guidelines from different advisory groups vary: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/GeneralRecommendations.html

      Amy Robach went on public tv to have a mammogram. She initially did not share the diagnosis or findings with her audience, but stated she will have a bi-lateral mastectomy! I still don’t have all the facts. Was it DCIS? Did she find cancer in both breasts? When a reporter goes on tv and has a diagnostic test, she needs to share her findings with the public to educate them. If she doesn’t want to, then don’t have a public display.

StillHere posted on December 11, 2013 at 4:06 am

In Oct 2012, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I didn’t have a rash.
Yet.
I had some mild swelling. I had a mammogram, inconclusive due to dense tissue. Had a biopsy, which was positive. Then, my GREAT surgeon, called me and said “I think I want to do a skin biopsy, something is not quite right”. The skin biopsy was positive for cancer. And so, instead of having a single mastectomy, I had a PET/CT scan and they discovered metastases in over a dozen places. This meant no surgery, rather extensive, INtensive, difficult chemotherapy first.
The doctor plainly told me, had I not seen her when I did, I’d have been dead within three months.
I FINALLY had a double mastectomy and several lymph nodes removed in June. I will NEVER be able to stop targeted chemotherapy. For the rest of my LIFE.
A regular mammogram didn’t save MY life. It didn’t make any difference at all, really. A very skilled surgeon, and excellent oncologists made the difference for me.
Not to diminish ANY woman with DCIS (and there have been SEVERAL going back three generations in my family, even though we do NOT carry the BRCA mutation, and I am the first in my family to have IBC), but too much is made of breast cancers that may turn out to be non-lethal. Too much stress is put on mammograms..they are NOT a cure, they are a diagnostic tool, that sometimes works, but not always.
Some of us are actually going to die of breast cancer. No matter what we do.
Instead of spending millions of dollars on “awareness”, let’s spend it on actual research to find a CURE, so no woman needs to have body parts amputated. Amputation is NOT a cure! It’s barbaric!
I appreciate Ms. Robach’s fear, I do…but the entire media storm of her story smacks of plain drama queen excess.
Frankly, Ms. Jolie handled her situation with far more grace.