Who Will be the Next Susan Goodman Komen? Or Nancy Goodman Brinker?

| October 29, 2010

Over the years several colleagues including fellow pathologists and oncologists I have worked with, as well as myself have been critical of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure (formerly known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation).

Speaking for myself I think it stems from the amount of funding put towards “breast cancer centers” that have cropped up in nearly every hospital in some capacity. There may be a “oncology department” that sees cancer patients and then there is a “breast cancer center”.  So folks with leukemia, lymphoma or colon, lung or prostate cancer go to one area of the hospital while breast cancer patients go to another.  Often times the waiting areas and exam rooms are modern, tranquil, well-appointed, even luxurious while the “other” waiting areas and clinical areas are reminiscent of typical clinic or physician office settings with older furniture, no overhead music, fountains, espresso machines or concierge services at check-in.  A recent Facebook post I caught tripped me to thinking about this again.

Admittedly, I was wrong for being critical of the degree of leadership shown by this cancer organization. Having relatives that have passed from gastric and pancreatic cancers, it would have been nice to see their care afforded a similar level of appreciation for what is usually mundane and cold but it doesn’t make it wrong; there just hasn’t been a single person as influential as motivating another individual to make this kind of change occur.

According to Wikipedia, Komen has invested over $1.5 billion for research, education and health services, making it the largest breast cancer charity in the world. Today, Komen has more than 100,000 volunteers working in a network of 125 affiliates worldwide.

For the better part of the last century women’s health issues were largely ignored.  That changed for breast cancer in 1982 when Komen’s younger sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Komen’s memory.  Susan Goodman Komen was born on October 31, 1947 and was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30. She died three years later, in 1980. Komen’s younger sister felt that Susan’s outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment, and remembering a promise to her sister that she would find a way to speed up breast cancer research

According to results of the Harris Interactive 2010 EquiTrend annual brand equity poll, Komen is one of the most trusted nonprofit organizations in America.

In recent years have been to baseball and football games where the leagues have supported their players wearing pink gloves and pink shoes and swinging pink bats. T-shirts and bumper stickers with slogans like “Think Pink” and “Save the Tatas” and “Imagine the World Without Cancer” are prevalent. Hard to go a weekend in my town without a walk or run in support of breast cancer.

A few weeks ago some former Mayo colleagues shaved their heads and beards after supporters met a challenge to raise $10000 in 2 weeks (video below).

Perhaps some day there will be a sister, brother, daughter, son, husband, wife or friend that will fight for their relative and spur similar interest in finding a cure for lung, stomach, pancreas, colon or prostate cancer.

Perhaps “Think Blue” or “Think Brown”.  OK, need to think about this marketing a little bit but until cures are found perhaps more grassroots efforts will be spawned to battle these types of cancers and improve early detection and increase survival much like Nancy Goodman Brinker did for her sister.

Kudos to the organization and their efforts!  You have inspired millions.


Category: Pathology News

Comments (1)

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  1. Chris says:

    My friend who’s a uropathologist says there is a huge amount of funding that goes into prostate cancer research, you just don’t hear about it.