Monday, July 6, 2009

EARLY Bird Special

Jeff Stier's online article "Detecting a Bad Breast Cancer Bill" is so filled with inaccuracies, it simply boggles the mind.

As if women didn't have to struggle enough with the array of information about breast cancer detection -- or any cancer for that matter -- Stier adds insult to injury by basically dismissing the early detection legislation Florida Democratic Rep. Wasserman Schultz and many in Congress are supporting.

Schultz is proposing a Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young (EARLY) Act that would focus on early detection campaigns and breast cancer education. Stier is against the EARLY Act, claiming that Wasserman Schultz should leave disseminating early detection information to the experts.

Uh, Mr. Stier, with all due respect, Rep. Wasserman Schultz is an expert: She is a breast cancer survivor. And we breast cancer survivors should be the ones whose voices ring out the loudest.

Because we know our stuff. And you don't.

At the end of this posting, I will have a link to this propaganda-ish article, but in case you don't want to waste your time reading it, here's a synopsis of each of his points, followed by my correcting this fallacies (in red). After his link, I have provided a link to a website that discusses the EARLY Act.

On Educating High School and College Students About Breast Cancer Prevention: Mr. Stier says that there's no need to educate this population about breast cancer prevention, as "breast cancer is exceedingly rare in students." Whaa? So students are not likely to get breast cancer? Says who? Many college students are coming back to school and are a more mature population. And here's the big picture: high school students grow up to be adults, and maybe, just maybe, that information they learned eons ago will come in handy.

On Self-Exams: He says that these are essentially useless and that "self-exams have been shown to give young women nothing more than a false sense of control." Is this a bad joke? I found my own breast cancer through one of my routine monthly breast exams. I found my own tumor, even after a mammogram and doctors missed it. And you bet, Mister, that I have a sense of control, but it's empowering and real, not false like your blanket statements.

On Media Campaigns: He is against media awareness of breast cancer prevention because, basically, women cannot prevent their own cancer. He says, "Dr. Leslie Bernstein, puts it best: 'The most I could ever tell a young woman would be that she should drink in moderation, exercise, and breast-feed babies if she is able.'" Huh? OK, the moderate drinking and exercise make sense, but the breast-feeding part of the equation blames women who have opted not to breast feed but wind up with breast cancer anyway. Guess what? I know many women who breast fed and wound up with this disease.

On Genetic Testing: Stier says that genetic testing is in its infancy, so it's useless. I had genetic testing and found it very useful. Cancer screening is also in its infancy; that is, in 50 years, our detection methods will seem barbaric.

On Environmental Factors: He claims there's no proof that certain environmental factors contribute to breast cancer. Here I'll throw him a cancer-free bone: it's really hard to know exactly what causes breast cancer. We cannot escape hazardous materials in our lives, and doctors don't know what causes this disease.

Frankly, I see the EARLY Act as a positive step in empowering women to take charge of their own health care and to be proactive. Ignorance about one's own body is the antithesis to helping oneself. Keeping ourselves in the dark is no solution. Education is key, and the EARLY bird catches the worm.

Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris College in the Chicago area. She can be contacted at and She also blogs on the adventures of her cats, Hemi and Cosette, at



  1. I don't see a link to his article, but I wouldn't want him to think the additional traffic to his article is a kudos to his stupid article. You go girl!

  2. Yeah, it was a pretty dismal article. I'm surprised the link wasn't there.