Today’s Daily Star is pink.
But if you are reading the paper edition rather than online, you already knew that.
It has become the custom of this newspaper to turn our pages pink once a year to highlight Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and if you are a subscriber, you probably already knew that, too.
You might even have known that, not counting some kinds of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, and that in 2011 (the most recent year that numbers are available), 40,931 women (and 443 men) in the United States died from breast cancer.
But with all the different studies and other information with which women are bombarded concerning what they should or shouldn’t do to prevent or deal with breast cancer, it is hard to know exactly what might be the best course of action.
Should women undergo mammograms on a regular basis? One 25-year-long study followed 90,000 women and found that death rates from breast cancer were the same in women who did not get mammograms as those who did.
That study was attacked by some mammogram advocates, including the American College of Radiology, which called it “incredibly misleading” and “deeply flawed.”
“Mammography saves lives,” Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, told the Washington Post. “But it doesn’t save as many lives as the American people think it does. ... The best studies we have suggest that two-thirds of women who are destined to die of breast cancer will still die of breast cancer — even if they get high-quality mammograms.”
Mammograms are far from the only confusing issue. What about the preventive double mastectomy actress Angelina Jolie underwent because she carries a “faulty” gene that put her at an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer and increases her susceptibility to ovarian cancer?
Even self-breast exams are somewhat controversial. The Post cited two large studies that revealed that monthly self-exams increase the number of suspicious lumps that are discovered, but they do not reduce cancer deaths.
Our purpose here is not to advocate any particular course of action for women when it comes to breast cancer tests and treatment. Those decisions are best made by a woman, her family and her doctor.
What we do want to emphasize is one word in our recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That word is “awareness.” The more women who are aware of all the available information — even that which is seemingly contradictory — the more lives will be saved.
And if even a few of our readers become more aware of this serious issue because of the color of today’s paper, we would just be tickled pink.