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At the Tenth Anniversary National Race for the Cure held in Washington D.C. on June 6, 1999, Nancy Brinker addressed the crowd:
Today is a defining moment in the breast cancer movement, because we are making progress. Twenty years ago, when my sister Susan Komen asked me to do something to cure this disease, we couldn’t even imagine a day like today. Sixty-five thousand people turning out in our nation’s capital to once again race, run, walk, and pray for the cure. It is coming! It is coming!
– p 37, Pink Ribbons, Inc. by Samantha J. King (2006)
In discussing the “wonderful job” of “branding the message and pink ribbons” Nancy Brinker, in a 2010 PBS interview with Tavis Smiley, states:
Also, the Race for the Cure and the other events that we have because our job is to celebrate hope and to give people a vision for the future, not to depress them all the time and say, you know, you’re gonna die from this.
Discussing Komen’s policy on mammograms in light of recent studies questioning the reliability and screening regularity in an LA Times article “The Trouble with Mammograms” (Aug. 17, 2009) ”
..[E]lizabeth Thompson, vice president of health sciences at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer advocacy group based in Dallas, says she worries that these studies will undermine her group’s awareness efforts.
“I don’t think you can say that we’re overtreating those women. We know that some of these cancers become invasive,” she says. “We need to keep hammering away at our basic message, which is, early detection saves lives.”
Dr. Eric Winer, director of the breast oncology center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and chief scientific advisor for Susan G. Komen for the Cure acknowledges that messages about mammography may need revamping.
“As painful as it is to admit, we have oversold mammography to the American public,” he says. “Frankly, I don’t know what to do with this. On the one hand, I don’t want to push people away from mammography, but I don’t want to encourage them to have misconceptions about mammograms either.”
In a Senate hearing on mammography in 2002, Komen and the National Breast Cancer Coalition hold widely divergent views:
LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M. D. Chair-Elect of Komen’s Board of Directors: “Modern medicine is full of uncertainty. But today, the assault on mammography has created a cloud of confusion and an atmosphere of suspicion…Affiliates of the Koman Foundation currently provide grants for more than 1,600 breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment projects in their communities…While mammography can sometimes lead to false negative results, when a woman and her care giver discover a suspicious lump that did not show up on the mammogram, further examination doesn’t always entail surgery…There is also the risk of false positive results, when an abnormal mammogram is, in fact, not breast cancer, which may also result in further tests. But while these risks may result in unnecessary procedures for some women, our constituents in America’s communities tell us that even these serious consequences seem acceptable if they are faced with the possibility of a life-threatening disease.
Fran Visco, president of NBCC: “We can’t pretend that this complexity and these controversies do not exist. And it cannot be resolved simply by issuing a clear, simple guideline…So the goal is truth, not just clarity and a simple message. And the truth seems to be that there is uncertainty about the evidence, or about the existence, or, if it exists, the extent of the benefits of screening mammography…We’ve heard about length, lead time bias. Do we save lives or simply add days to lives? These are all legitimate issues that women are capable of understanding and making their own choices…If the goal is to save women’s lives, if we had taken the billions of dollars put into building an infrastructure for screening mammography and breast self-exam videos and shower cards, and provided health insurance for the women of this country, I think we would have saved many more lives.”
Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons, Inc. on Komen’s focus on mammography and early detection:
The focus on finding a cure for breast cancer , rather than on prevention of the disease, has been subject to critique from some prominent scientists and breast cancer activists, however. Many of these critics also express doubt about the usefulness of mammograms in the fight against breast cancer and point out, among other things, that even under optimal conditions, mammograms can miss up to 15 percent of tumors. They also argue that mammograms are not preventive but detective technologies and that the widespread promotion of this technology as preventive is deceptive, and even dangerous, since some research suggests that overuse of mammograms might actually cause cancer. Furthermore, although early detection is touted by the breast cancer industry as increasing survival rates, critics have argued that while mammograms might detect tumors earlier they do not necessarily improve the survival of patients, but rather extend the amount of time in which women bear knowledge of their condition. In other words, this technology may have very little impact on overall breast cancer mortality.
– p 38, Pink Ribbons, Inc. by Samantha J. King (2006)
Dr. Steven Edward Harms discusses his research into developing Breast MRI (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette -Little Rock Sep. 5, 2004) Early on, Harms got a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation that helped him develop the coil aspect of the breast MRI machine. Big companies had turned him down, so the grant paid for materials that a friend used to develop a coil that would target the breast. He also knew Nancy Brinker who, according Harms, got an MRI breast scan from him every year. Harms states:
“With breast MRI, patients can come as close as possible to knowing they’re cancer free…The numbers of false negatives that I’ve had in thousands of patients, I can count on one hand. Whereas with mammography, about half the cancers are missed. It’s a big difference.
Not everyone can afford breast MRI, which has limited insurance coverage. The cost is about $100 for mammogram, while a breast MRI costs about $1,000.”
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In talking about why she thinks Komen’s message resonates more than it did thirty years ago, Nancy Brinker, in a 2010 PBS interview with Tavis Smiley, states:
There’s one thing we know. We can’t afford – and no one in the world can afford – to treat all the late-stage cancer.
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In discussing a $1million campaign to rebrand Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundationto to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Tricia Duffy, managing partner of Duffy & Partners, one of three agencies involved in the effort told the New York Times (Jan. 29, 2007):
“Taking advantage of the popularity of the “for the Cure” events was “obvious,” she adds, “so we married Komen, and in particular the personal aspects of Susan G. Komen, with their activation points, the ‘for the Cure’ events.” Activation points is a term brand marketers use to refer to events and other ways that the public intersects and interacts with an advertiser.
The Sun Herald describing the new Promise Me fragrance that will be introduced by Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker on the Home Shopping Network:
The scent of compassion and courage. The first official fragrance to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, Promise Me offers a unique opportunity to contribute to breast cancer research and recognize those who have been touched by the disease…
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Rejecting suggestions that she was not qualified for the job of Ambassador to Hungary (appointed by George W. Bush), Nancy Brinker remarks in an article by Copley News Service (Aug. 3, 2001):
“I would like to think that my 25 years of helping to lead a movement and give shape to it and building a rather large nonprofit corporation, serving on many corporate boards … would serve as background for this job.”
Nancy Brinker, in an interview with Lisa Belkin (1996) of New York Times Magazine, states:
“I am not just some rich society lady…This is not about manicures and going out to lunch.”
In an interview with the Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois (Jun 21., 2009) Nancy Brinker’s son Eric Brinker says this about his mother:
“Mom has said many times she started the foundation with $200 and a box of names. Well, most of those names were my dad’s associates and colleagues, people she knew she could call and get help with either money or influence or both. The foundation was important to my father, too, which was why he was still on the board of directors.”
An article in Palm Beach Post (Jul. 16, 2008) discusses WPTV-Channel 5 news anchor Laurel Sauer’s “Yearlong Battle with Cancer.” Nancy Brinker, from her European vacation, states:
“I know with Laurel’s strong spirit and determination, she will be able to beat this.”
In an article by Marie McCullough for philly.com (Sep. 30, 2004), responding to criticisms and calls for better coordinationin funding of research in general, founder Nancy Brinker said:
she has no time for activists’ “whining and kvetching.” “I’ve been at this almost longer than anybody in the movement,” said Brinker, a breast-cancer survivor whose 22-year-old foundation is named for her sister, who did not survive. “Have we come a long way? Yes. Have we gotten where we need to go? No. But it doesn’t help to take whacks at one another and stick your tongue out.”
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James Morrison of The Washington Times (Apr. 22, 2009) writes:
“Nancy Brinker knows which fork to use and which flag to fly when a foreign leader comes to Washington.”
Paul Lomartire of Palm Beach Post (Sep. 6, 2001) writes:
“Yes, she’s good friends with Harris and Laura Bush and Betty Ford. Yes, she and Norman have donated to the Republican Party.”
At a Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committees, reported by the Federal News Service (Sep. 5, 2007), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) says,
“I want to say about Nancy Brinker that she is a dynamo, a powerhouse, someone who never takes no for an answer. I was in her living room in 1982 when she started the process of fulfilling the promise to her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end this disease. And Nancy had a few of her friends in her living room and said we’re going to start a foundation and we’re going to raise money for breast cancer research.”
In an interview with the Palm Beach Post (Sep. 6, 2001), Paul Lomartire confirms that Brinker’s parents (Marvin, 85, and Ellie Goodman, 81) will be at their daughter’s swearing-in ceremony. Brinker oddly states about her parents:
“I came from a broken home. My father’s a Republican, my mother’s a Democrat – that’s a broken home.”
Jennifer Luray, president of the Susan G. Komen, Cure Advocacy Alliance states in a House Committee on Energy and Commerce (Oct. 7, 2009):
“A Komen motto is that information empowers women to be their own best advocates. Yet too many women don’t receive information about breast cancer until their doctor recommends their first mammogram at age 40. And that’s just too late for information.”
New Jersey based writer, Mary Ann Swissler, writes in a 2003 article about Komen’s corporate and political ties:
“Brinker relies on the blockbuster PR value of the 5K Race for the Cure. The year-round calendar of cancer walks that draw grief-stricken yet hopeful patients and their loved ones, along with a fawning media, preserve Brinker and her group’s image as being on the side of the average American woman tragically afflicted with breast cancer.”
Swissler’s 2003 article also comments about Brinker:
“Despite proclaiming herself before a 2001 Congressional panel as a ‘patient advocate for the past 20 years,’ demanding access to the best possible medical care for all breast cancer patients, Federal Election Commission records show the Komen Foundation and its allies lobbied against the consumer-friendly version of the Patients Bill of Rights in 1999, 2000 and 2001.”
In an interview with Paul Lomartir of the Palm Beach Post (Sep. 6, 2001), Brinker states:
“I don’t like the Bushes, I love the Bushes. They’re wonderful people. They’re the most loyal friends. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them.”
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Leslie Aun, vice president of marketing and communications at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, in a Wall Street Journal blog article (2011);
“It’s a lot of food for thought,” Leslie Aun, vice president of marketing and communications at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, tells the Health Blog. Komen’s logo includes a pink ribbon, the ubiquitous symbol for breast cancer awareness. Because the ribbon and color are now emblematic of the movement, they’re “not going to change anytime soon,” she says.
Aun says her group’s message has always been focused on “action and strength” and on empowering people to do something. To that end, for the first time this October Komen will celebrate breast-cancer action month rather than the usual breast-cancer awareness month. And an upcoming ad campaign will also focus on what women can do, be it get a recommended mammogram, donate or participate in a fundraiser or become an advocate.
“People are obviously aware,” says Aun. “The question becomes, “How can you take that pink and get them to do something?”
Nancy Brinker, in a 2010 PBS interview with Tavis Smiley, states:
“….[I] realized the only way to deliver really conventional messages about breast cancer was through products and things people were doing that they weren’t afraid of and enjoying what they were doing.”
Nancy Brinker, in a 2010 blog post for Prevention Magazine
“So as long as this disease persists, I say we need more pink for all those who are suffering and dying. So I wear my pink proudly and I hope you do, too. It isn’t soft and fluffy. Pink is passionate and bold. Think of it as your membership card in a global community working to end a disease that will kill almost half a million people this year.”
Amy Langer, the executive director of the now defunct National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO), stated in an interview with Lisa Belkin (1996) of New York Times Magazine:
”There is something fragile about a corporate commitment to a cause. It does worry you that they will change their minds or find something different, or find that it becomes old news. It’s like a new product introduction. At some point it looks very appealing to have a fresh new cause.”
Cindy Schneible, head of sponsorships at Komen, in an interview with Susan Orenstein (2003) of CNN Money
“From the start, companies aimed to stake out turf in what fast became a crowded field. Savvy nonprofits understand that their corporate partners have competitive issues to consider; in fact, they cater to them. “We’re sensitive to the fact that this is a marketing relationship, not a philanthropic relationship,” says Cindy Schneible, head of sponsorships at Komen, which more than any other group has turned breast cancer into a corporate darling.”
Geoff Livingston, noted social enterprise strategist and author of Now Is Gone stated recently on his blog that money-grabbing strategies such as Komen’s actually run counter to their mission:
“Are you competing just to raise the most money? Competing in the sense that a cause seeks to beat out its competition helps no one. It actually hurts the cause space by creating distractions and wasted resources.”