National Breast Cancer Awareness Month focuses attention on a disease that still takes too many of our loved ones. It is also a time when misimpressions intensify about the breast cancer movement and its largest organization, Susan G. Komen (“We have awareness – now work on breast cancer cure”; Forum, Oct. 4).
While many appreciate Komen’s work to end breast cancer, some say nothing has changed; that “all this pink” is accomplishing little. We certainly have more work to do, but we have come a long way.
Komen’s investments in research and community health programs have helped reduce breast cancer death rates by 34 percent since 1991. Today, many women are living longer with advanced and metastatic forms of the disease, thanks to new treatments developed through years of research.
Komen’s $889 million research investment is the largest of any nonprofit and second only to the U.S. government. Our research is complemented by the $1.95 billion that we’ve granted to thousands of community-based programs – in the Sacramento Valley and across the country – to help low-income, uninsured and medically vulnerable women and families.
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Last year, Komen and our affiliates helped 30,000 people pay for medical supplies, insurance co-pays and surgeries. We paid the rent. We bought groceries for people going through treatment. And we sought health equity for those with significant differences in outcomes. “Pink” has made that possible.
For those who question the need for more awareness, I can tell you that I meet women every day who are uninformed about their breast cancer risk or the help available to them. So we will continue to inform about this disease in person, in educational materials and through our website, komen.org.
We take this comprehensive approach because we know that we will only make progress by working in neighborhoods and laboratories.
The form of breast cancer that kills today is metastatic breast cancer, and the urgency to cure metastatic disease does not escape us, because those who die are also our friends, our volunteers, our staff members and our loved ones, including Susan G. Komen herself. We have funded $147 million in nearly 400 metastatic research grants, including 36 new grants this year. We also helped to found the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance – more than two dozen organizations advancing the issues of metastatic patients. And we all need to do more.
We’re proud of our research leadership and the support we provide for people who need us.
Dr. Judith A. Salerno is president and CEO of Susan G. Komen. Visit the website at komen.org.