Friday, October 8, 2010

My angry, angry, angry breasts.

There are two Facebook messages/ updates going around that are bugging all hell out of me.
The first is that girls and women are updating their profile with
“I like it...” then stating where they keep their handbag.
Consequently it looks a bit dirty when girls
“like it behind the couch”, or “like it behind the door”, or even better “like it wherever I can be bothered.”
Witty! I thought it was funny until I got the (let’s face it) Chain letter causing this...

“Last year women on facebook played a game to raise awareness of October Breast Cancer Month. They each posted what colour bra they were wearing on their status. The effect was so widespread that it made men wonder what it was about and eventually made it to the news - increasing the awareness of breast cancer. This year's game has to do with your handbag or purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home for example "I like it on the couch", "I like it on the kitchen counter", "I like it on the dresser" you get the idea. Just put your answer as your status with nothing more than that and cut'n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news; let's see how powerful we women really are..!


*cough* Several questions...
How does this raise awareness of breast cancer?
There are no links to sites with education, no ability to book a mammogram, no info on when and where to get a mammogram, and when they become free...
There are no links to the cancer foundation, no information about how to donate, or donate time to become a collector for collection day.
And how does this make women feel or appear powerful?

In fact, is this what it appears to be? A chain letter no better than; “pass this on or little sally will die of syphilis and you will never get a boyfriend”?

I’m disappointed and angry that this is not only happening but being carried on by smart, caring women I know.

The second is this one.
“October is cancer month. In memory of every cancer patient, family member and friend who has lost their battle with cancer and in honour of those who continue to conquer it! Put this up for 1 hour if you love someone who has or had cancer.”

It’s like “post this as your facebook status if you hate having a cold, and love money.”
Well DUH. Except there is a highly emotional level to this making it in essence, emotional bribery.
Considering roughly 1/4 of New Zealanders will get some form of cancer in their life time, and one fifth of all cancer deaths in women is from breast cancer*, your hit rate is pretty good.

It cheapens what people are living through and dying with, and I object that because my status update has nothing to do with cancer somehow that implies that I don’t ‘care’.

I care deeply.

I care so deeply that I don’t talk about cancer frivolously.
I sure as hell don’t use it for spam, or to emotionally bribe people to update their status to match mine.
I care, so I talk about it person-to-person and make sure I can see someone’s eyes when I talk about cancer, so I can see where those boundaries’ of hurt and fear are that I don’t want to accidentally cross.
I care; so as new research and education comes out I pass it on to my loved ones.
I care, so I check my own breasts, and teach other women how to check theirs.

I care for more than ONE BLOODY HOUR on Facebook.

I’m sorry if you forwarded anything on, or feel this posting attacks something you did out of the kindness of your heart.
I understand that most people mean well, but try to understand why these messages are thoughtless in so many ways.

For information on breast cancer specifically visit the breast cancer foundation of New Zealand

Or their ‘Take action’ page, if you want to *gasp* do something.

or join them on Facebook.

Go to this site to see Janelle Aitken, a National Breast Health Educator take you through a concise breast health presentation; covering basic breast awareness, healthy lifestyle tips and busts some of the myths that are floating around about breast cancer.

Or for info on recovery exercises (I think this may even be free) go to the ywca.

*data from the 90's needs updated stats, sorry.

Some info for your interest...

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among New Zealand women, with more than 2500 new cases expected this year - also approximately 20 men will be diagnosed1.

More than 600 women will die from the disease this year - making it the leading cause of cancer-related death in females.

1 in 9 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime2.

90-95% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

Getting older is the most common risk factor: over 70% of new cases are among women 50years and over.

Women of all ages, especially those over the age of 40 years, need to be ‘breast aware'.

In being ‘breast aware' women should:
· Know what is normal for them
· Know what changes to look and feel for
· Report changes without delay to their family doctor
· Attend mammography screening if appropriate for their age

Changes in the breast that may indicate cancer:
· A new lump or thickening
· A change in the breast shape or size
· Pain in the breast that is unusual
· Puckering or dimpling of the skin
· Any change in one nipple, such as:
- a turned-in (inverted) nipple
- a discharge that occurs without squeezing
· A rash or reddening of the skin that appears only on the breast.

Early detection of breast cancer increases a woman's chance of survival. Today, close to 85% of NZ women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive 5 years or more, and the death rate has decreased by nearly 24% between1995-2005.

New Zealand's free, nationwide breast screening programme, BreastScreen Aotearoa, checks women with no breast cancer symptoms - ‘well' women - for early breast cancer between 45-69 years of age with a screening mammogram every two years.

Screening mammograms do not stop the development of breast cancer, but do reduce the chance of dying from breast cancer by approximately 33%.

Thermography is ineffective as a breast cancer screening tool or breast cancer diagnostic tool.

Breast cancer occurs with equal frequency in Maori and Non-Maori women. However, Maori women are nearly twice as likely to die from the disease as non-Maori; one important reason for this is they are presenting with breast cancer at a later stage of disease. The reasons for their presenting late are complex, but are shown by the low rate of attendance by Maori women for screening mammograms.

Pacific women in NZ are 20% more likely to die of breast cancer than other NZ women.


1. Ministry of Health (2008). Cancer New Registrations and Deaths 2005, pp. 18-19. Wellington: MOH.

2. Ministry of Health/NZHIS/BSA (2007). Personal communication. Personal Communication: Bercinskas,
L (2007) and Childs, J.(2009)

3. The National Screening Unit, the Cancer Society of New Zealand and The New Zealand Breast Cancer
Foundation (2008, Oct). Position Statement on Breast Awareness.. Ministry of Health: Wellington.

4. Ministry of Health (2008). Cancer New Registrations and Deaths 2005, p.35 Wellington: MOH.

5. Ministry of Health/NZHIS (2006). Data is average for 1996-2000 mortality.

6. The National Screening Unit, the Cancer Society of New Zealand and The New Zealand Breast Cancer
Foundation (2005, Jan). Position Statement: The use of thermography as a breast screening or
diagnostic tool. Ministry of Health: Wellington.

7. Cancer Control Council of NZ (Nov 2008). Mapping Progress 11: Phase 1 of the Cancer Council
Strategy Action Plan 2005-2010. p. 32. Wellington: Cancer Control Council of NZ.

8. Ministry of Health/Breast Screen Aotearoa (2009). Retrieved from the internet on 11 March 2009

Remember - early detection saves breasts and lives


  1. Right on! I love this post-I love the point you made about those chain letters on FB-I have gotten similar chain letters (not about breast cancer though) that I would definitely categorize as 'emotional bribery' as you so aptly put it. I also love that you followed that up with all this fantastic information about breast cancer-I actually just learned quite a bit so thank you! :)

  2. P.S.-I read this aloud to my husband-(his mother had breast cancer when he was in high school and thankfully has been in remission for quite some time now)-but I thought I should tell you how impressed he was with your post.

  3. I write a lot of this stuff to get a big vent off my chest. Its the stuff I can't always say out loud for fear of pissing off the above mentioned 'well meaning but stupid' people who I do genuinely love!
    Although I write for myself it is really really lovely to get feedback like this, it means a lot.
    Especially when you guys obviously hold the topic as an important one.

  4. Ha!!!

    I never get chain letters, although, I do remember the thing about bra color....shesh peeps, grow up a lil' bit:-)

    Love the blog girl, title is great :-)

  5. I'm glad you put up the thermography thing. Their ad's freak me out that people probably would rely on those because they don't want the discomfort of a mamm.


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