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Breast Cancer on Your Mind? Then Work to Overthrow the Profit Driven Healthcare Industry!

May 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Jane McAlevey, AlterNet

Making money off illness is sickening. Depriving the needy of life-saving healthcare should be criminal.

Last month, I lost my too-young-to-die sister to a BRCA#1 breast cancer. When I was a toddler not yet in kindergarten, breast cancer robbed me of my mother. I am a BRCA#1 gene carrier, and recently wrote about it in my memoir, Raising Expectations and Raising Hell. Neither my sister nor my mother’s premature deaths, nor my own writing could possibly have turned BRCA#1 (and #2) into a household conversation the way a beautiful movie star could. Like millions of women, I have been reading the praise, the misogynist “jokes,” and the criticism being lobbed at Angelina Jolie.

The most urgent fact she left out of her op-ed, and that has received scant attention in the days since, is absolutely crucial: 70% of the BRCA#1 gene mutation breast cancers result in the most aggressive, least treatable form of breast cancer called the “triple negative,” a variation that more resembles ovarian than breast cancer genetically and which does not respond to any of the three main forms of treatment common among other breast cancers. The population next most likely to get triple negative breast cancer, after BRCA carriers, are African-American women.

According to Peggy Orenstein’s recent NYT Magazine cover story on the limits of the pink-fuzzy-teddy-bear breast cancer awareness movement, “Mammograms, it turns out, are not so great at detecting the most lethal forms of disease — like triple negative — at a treatable phase. Aggressive tumors progress too quickly, often cropping up between mammograms. Even catching them 'early,' while they are still small, can be too late: they have already metastasized.”

It’s safe to say that I am alive today, because after my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had the gene test done. The fact that she’s now dead and I am alive leads to a very particular kind of grieving, one that mixes guilt into an already heavy stew of sadness and sorrow. Had she gotten the same directives I did, would she still be alive? I am sharing my story …read more


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