Let’s get real

The poster on the left greeted me in the lobby of my yoga studio this week. It inspired me to make the poster on the right. Since I’m a reporter, I made a couple of calls. Deborah Lattimore, the mighty woman in the photo, was a joy and an inspiration. She gave me permission to use her photo. She took the photo of herself during treatment for breast cancer and uploaded to the interactive feature Picture Your Life After Cancer on the New York Times. She wanted to counter the popular narrative of mastectomy patients looking sad and victimized. Her photo will appear in an upcoming book jointly published by the New York Times and the American Cancer Society. My second call, to the event coordinator at the brewery, didn’t go as well.  She said she knows nothing about the poster or the event other than the fact that the brewery donated a keg. (PS. Alcohol increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.)

Since this poster is woefully short on facts, I thought I’d list a few I gathered yesterday while reporting an upcoming (unrelated) article on breast cancer for a major women’s magazine.

1.5 million=women diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide this year

500,000=women will have recurrences (most will be counted as “cured” because the recurrence is more than 5 years after their initial diagnosis and research only tracks women for 5 years. Of these second-timers (myself included) 1 in 3  will die of the disease.

$3.3 billion=amount spent on mammograms in the US each year

$16.5 billion=annual cost of breast cancer treatment in the US

30=percentage of breast cancers overdiagnosed and overtreated

For every 2,000 women screened…

       1 life will be prolonged

       10 will be treated unnecessarily

$1 billion=annual amount invested in breast cancer research in the US

830=resolutions and bills with the words “breast cancer” introduced in the US Congress since 1991

91=number of breast cancer drugs under evaluatation by the FDA

0=number of women cured

More than 40 years and billions of dollars have not ended breast cancer. It has, however, created a robust cancer industry that thrives on raising awareness and producing drugs, screening devices, and genetic tests.

(Sources of all stats and end quote: National Breast Cancer Coalition)

It’s time to change the conversation.

8 Responses

  1. Nan says:


  2. […] This, you have got to read: Let’s get real […]

  3. Rae says:

    I can’t tell you what a relief it is to see someone doing some rad kamikaze street protest (of course, not in Bloomington, where such things never happen). I miss that SO MUCH and I am SO PSYCHED that you are doing this and that I get to count you among my own.

  4. feistybluegecko says:

    Thank you – this is such a powerful and informative post. (I have shared it on my facebook page too). This is such a critical debate, thanks for shouting.

  5. Catherine, I can’t thank you enough for asking me to be part of your amazing activism! I’ve linked your poster on my blog and Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oceanbornstudios/5734114146/in/photostream

    You rock!

  6. Melanie says:


  7. Bet says:

    “Zero cured”! Interesting statistic…

  8. “0 cured” is unacceptable. Thanks for raising this important issue, and also for publishing the gorgeous photo of Deborah. I just received The Scar Project book for my birthday and am so enamored with the reality of these post-mastectomy photos. I had no idea, pre-mastectomy, what I would look like afterward, so these photos are so powerful. Phenomenal post.