April showers bring May flowers and Avon walkers. Well, at least it seems that way. This past weekend, D.C. was awash in a sea of pink as mile after mile was hiked in the name of one common cause: the fight against breast cancer. Yes, the battle rages on.
Image: Avon Walkers at Mile 20. (Image Credit: Dorkina Myrick, M.D., Ph.D.)
Breast Cancer Stats
According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) in 2009, 211,731 women were diagnosed and 40,676 women died from breast cancer. (1) Breast cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in women of Hispanic origin. (2)
A Serious Disease
The National Cancer Institute website and Mayo Clinic website on “breast cancer” are good resources for a comprehensive overview of everything from risk factors and possible causes to diagnosis and treatment of the disease, as well as health lifestyle information for those who are in treatment or remission. It is often forgotten that breast cancer can occur in men, as well. This is unfortunate because the disease can be particularly aggressive in men. (3, 4) Young women (under age 40), African-American women, and Hispanic women are also more likely to develop aggressive forms of breast cancer. One particularly aggressive breast cancer from which these women suffer is a triple-negative type of breast cancer that lacks the biomarkers estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2) – all proven to be instrumental in hormonal therapy for the disease. (5)
A Spring Rite of Passage
The Avon Walk, established in 2003 to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research, has become somewhat of a rite of spring passage for patients, families, friends, supporters, advocates, and health care providers who want to make a difference and do something to help combat this dreaded disease.
Alone, with a Few Buddies, or As a Team
Walkers either did it on their own or organized into teams. Some of these groups had really catchy names. For instance, check out “Niki’s Knockers” (No, it’s not what you think and certainly not the way it sounds.) or “Team Bra-La-La.” Niki’s Knockers raised an astounding $50,000. The team leader, Ms. Riva Litman, sadly lost her mother to breast cancer in 2011. Team Bra-La-La raised a respectable sum of over $38,000 dollars. (6, 7)
So, Is All of This Money Really Helping?
According to the Avon website, $472 million has been generated by the Avon Walk for the sake of breast cancer since 2003. An interactive map highlights geographic areas and cities that have benefited from the fundraising effort. (8) However, last year’s controversy regarding the defunding of Planned Parenthood by the Susan G. Komen foundation cast a negative spotlight on breast cancer funding. Avon was quick to distance themselves from Komen by stating on their website that “No, the Avon Foundation for Women is not affiliated in any way with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, nor does the Avon Foundation donate any funds to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.” (9) A recent movie, Pink Ribbons,Inc., highlights the millions of dollars raised for the cause and the questions raised about whether or not this money is really helping in the fight. (10) The movie strongly hinted that a lot more could be done to ensure funds were being utilized properly, but it could have delved more deeply into the issue. In the meantime, breast advocacy and fundraising organizations may have to work a lot harder to make sure funds truly are being directed properly.
1. “Breast Cancer Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Website. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
2. “Cancer Among Women.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Website. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/data/women.htm. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
3. “Breast Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): General Information About Breast Cancer.” Website. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/breast/Patient. Last Modified May 5, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
4. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Breast Cancer.” Mayo Clinic. Website. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-breast-cancer/DS00661. November 29, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
5. “Breast Cancer: Triple Negative Breast Cancer.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Website. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/avon_foundation_breast_center/breast_cancers_other_conditions/triple_negative_breast_cancer.html. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
6. “2013: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: Washington DC – Niki’s Knockers.” Website. Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/WashingtonDC?team_id=118080&pg=team&fr_id=2190. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
7. “2013: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: Washington DC – Team Bra-La-La.” Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Website. http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/WashingtonDC?team_id=114140&pg=team&fr_id=2190. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
8. “How Your Donations Help.” Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Website. http://www.avonwalk.org/see-your-impact/where-the-money-goes.html. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
9. ” Avon Foundation for Women Response to Recent Inquiries About Breast Cancer Funding Support.” Website. Retrieved May 8, 2013. http://www.avonwalk.org/press/avon-foundation-for-women-response-to-recent-inquiries-about-breast-cancer-funding-support.html. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
10. “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” Rotten Tomatoes. YouTube/Website. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/pink_ribbons_inc/trailers/. Retrieved May 8, 2013.