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Entries in Susan G. Komen (2)

Thursday
Aug232012

Race for the Cure Struggles to Sign Up Racers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The world's largest charity for breast cancer, Susan G. Komen, is still reeling from the fierce backlash over its national office's decision earlier this year to cut -- and then restore -- funding to Planned Parenthood.

Now, local Komen affiliates may be paying the price.

Although the Northern New Jersey chapter met fundraising objectives this year for its annual Race for the Cure 5K run -- held this past spring -- executive director Jennifer Griola admitted it was forced to adjust its goals downward.

"We raised over $1 million this year, which did meet our projections," she said.  "But last year, we raised about $1.5 million."

Elsewhere, enrollment for the race scheduled by the North East Ohio branch this fall is down 13 percent compared to last year.

In San Francisco, with three weeks to go before their annual race, enrollment is nearly half of what it was a year ago.

Participation in Indianapolis' race plummeted to 26,000 from more than 37,000 participants the year before, and Race for the Cure in Southwest Florida reported 2,000 fewer participants than the previous year.

Komen's official reason for cutting Planned Parenthood funding was that it was under federal investigation.  However, many saw it as a politically motivated move by some of its devoutly pro-life executives, who objected to Planned Parenthood's abortion services.

Funding was restored quickly -- but not before raising the ire of past and potential participants on both sides of the aisle.

"I ran the Race for the Cure for over 10 years in memory of my mother who died of breast cancer at age 57," said Chicago-based author Iris Waichle.  "I've stopped running the race and contributing money to Komen.  As an advocate for people fighting infertility, I believe a woman has the right to choose her reproductive options."

On the other hand, Beverly Solomon, of Austin, Texas, who has never run a race but has often made contributions to Komen, vowed to stop supporting the charity because it reversed its original decision.

"How can anyone not see how offensive [it is] finding out that money intended to cure cancer was contributed to the biggest killer of women of any cause?" she asked.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

Breast Cancer: Komen Oversells Mammograms, Doctors Say

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two Dartmouth Medical School professors have called out Susan G. Komen for the Cure, accusing the pink-ribbon organization of overstating the benefits of mammograms in its advertisements.

The accusation comes about six months after the breast cancer charity came under fire for cutting Planned Parenthood funding, which it claimed was not a politically motivated decision.  According to the foundation's most recent Form 990, it netted about $114 million in 2010.

The ad in question ran last October in several major magazines, and said, "The five-year survival rate for breast cancer when caught early is 98 percent.  When it's not?  23 percent."

"It sounds like you'd have to be crazy not to get screened.  It sounds like a huge benefit," said Dr. Steven Woloshin, co-author of the article in BMJ, the British medical journal.  "The statistic is totally distorted."

The problem is that a five-year survival rate is easy to manipulate, he said.  The ad compares five-year survival rates for early-stage cancers and late-stage cancers, which Woloshin said is not a meaningful way to measure the benefits of screening.  Here's why:

Suppose three women are diagnosed with breast cancer at age 67 when a doctor finds a small lump, and they die of the disease three years later, when they're 70.  That five-year survival rate is a miserable 0 percent because no one lived five years past their diagnosis dates.

Now, suppose the same women were diagnosed when they were 64 because the cancer showed up on mammograms, but they still die of breast cancer at age 70, he said.  The new five-year survival rate is a triumphant 100 percent, even though the women actually survived cancer the same length of time.  They just didn't know how long they had it.

"If there were an Oscar for misleading statistics, using survival statistics to judge the benefit of screening would win a lifetime achievement award hands down," Woloshin and his co-author Lisa Schwartz wrote.

More useful numbers, Woloshin said, are derived from randomized trials.  They show that 0.53 percent of women in unscreened trial groups died over 10 years -- compared with 0.46 percent of the women who were screened.  That's not much of a difference, the authors said.

This problem is further exacerbated by overdiagnosis, which happens when mammograms detect cancers that never grow or cause symptoms, he said.

For every woman saved by an early screening, two to ten are falsely diagnosed, the authors wrote.  This means patients endure biopsies, chemotherapy and radiation even though they don't have a threatening cancer.

"There's no way for an individual to know they've been overdiagnosed," Woloshin said, explaining that the only way to tell whether this has happened to a specific person is if that person is diagnosed, does not seek treatment and eventually dies of something else.

Doctors have seen evidence of overdiagnoses in long-term follow-ups to randomized trials and analyses of population data, he said.

In response to the article, Komen's vice president of research, Chandini Portteus, stood by the foundation's stance on mammograms, calling the screenings "the best widely available detection tool that we have today."

She said Komen has contributed funds toward even earlier detection.

"We think it's simply irresponsible to effectively discourage women from taking steps to know what's going on with their health," Portteus said, adding that the foundation is also funding research to determine which tumors will spread.

Woloshin said his article is not saying mammograms are bad.

"Some people benefit while other people are harmed," he said.  "If you don't know, you can't make an informed decision."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio