Week 7 Blog Post

There are a few strengths of the “mainstream breast cancer culture” that we have in the United States. The main strength of this culture is that there is incredibly “generous funding in the USA for research into breast cancer (according to the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health have budgeted $401 million)” (The Lancet 1997). There is also incredible support from many survivors of breast cancer, family and friends of people with breast cancer and many corporations and businesses (Pool 2017).

Although there are a few strengths, there are far more weaknesses. The main issue is that even though there are millions of dollars of funding, not many people or consumers know where the money goes. In fact, the “assumption that spending vast amounts of money on research into any one cause of illness will necessarily lead to a cure is unreasonable (The Lancet 1997). Much of the money that is fundraised for breast cancer goes to finding new technologies for diagnosing and detecting cancer, genetic components (which is a very small percentage of causes of breast cancer) or new surgeries or therapies for treatment (“The ‘Patient’ Role, Authoritative Knowledge, and Patient ‘Non-Compliance”). The issue with this is that “the incidence of this disease in the USA has remained static for 10 years and 5-year relative survival rates have improved only marginally”(The Lancet 1997). There is also no real funding for the women who are diagnosed with breast cancer especially not “making patients comfortable” (The Lancet 1997). This means women sometimes have to foot their own medical bills if they have breast cancer or they might not be able to even afford treatment. Another huge weakness of “mainstream breast cancer culture” is the fact that it has “tied itself very closely to corporations” (Pool 2017). This means that it can only take actions that do not compromise their “pink”, very calm and happy image. It has to sell the disease of breast cancer in a very particular way, if not, they risk alienating consumers as well as corporations (Pool 2017). This also means the people who are the head of the cause cannot act in anger or advertise other than happiness and hope, which can stunt making advancements for causes because sometimes anger can be useful in getting people to listen.

The one thing breast cancer funding does not address or try to look at is environmental causes to breast cancer. This could actually be a large percentage of the reasons for breast cancer because unfortunately not many causes have been found. Environmental causes could include things like finding links between environmental toxins and cancer (“The ‘Patient’ Role, Authoritative Knowledge, and Patient ‘Non-Compliance”). However, there has been strong opposition from the biomedical field on the part of doctors and researchers to the idea that the environment might be a large source of breast cancer (“The ‘Patient’ Role, Authoritative Knowledge, and Patient ‘Non-Compliance”).

In Barbara L. Ley’s article “The Cultural Politics of Sisterhood”, Ley describes the Breast Cancer Fund’s decision to “call on the president to remedy the nation’s failure to address possible environmental causes” of breast cancer (Ley 2009). In doing so, the coalition “framed the environmental breast cancer problem as a women’s health issue” (Ley 2009). In doing so, they turned environmental issues into feminist issues. In Ley’s article, she describes how the current mainstream breast cancer culture, although it originated from efforts of feminist breast cancer activists, “critics argue that is far from feminist” (Ley 2009). True eco-feminism, which became popular and outspoken in the late 1990s “portrayed women as active participants and key players in scientific and political efforts to eradicate breast cancer… made explicit links between feminism, breast cancer, and the need to reform science and policy agendas as they relate to environmental causes of the disease” (Ley 2009). However, breast cancer culture today instead is “ultrafeminine and infantilizing… perpetuate complacency about social, political, economic, and environmental policies… does not cultivate anger at a s0cial system that values financial profit over women’s health” (Ley 2009).

Eco-feminism argues that social, political, and economic factors that lead to breast cancer need to be solved, however mainstream breast cancer culture today does not do any of these things.



“Breast Cancer Gets the Hard Sell – The Lancet.” The Lancet, www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(97)21032-9/fulltext.

Ley, Barbara L. From Pink to Green: Disease Prevention and the Environmental Breast Cancer Movement. Rutgers University Press, 2009.

Pool, Lea. Dailymotion, Dailymotion, 3 Aug. 2017, www.dailymotion.com/video/x5vqdad.

“The ‘Patient’ Role, Auhoritative Knowledge, and Patient ‘Non-Compliance.’” MSU ANP 270 Week 7 Lecture 1, anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/lecture-videos/patient/.

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