Being diagnosed with breast cancer today is an
entirely different experience than it was just 30
years ago. While partly due to advances in medicine,
many significant changes are the result of what is
termed the Breast Cancer Advocacy Movement.
Looking back, you can see the movement arriving in
two waves: the first wave, coming in the 1970s, took
breast cancer “public” and presented the affirming
notion that “It’s OK to have breast cancer: You don’t
have to hide it.” There was a focus on developing less
invasive treatments and on giving the patient control
over treatment decisions. The second wave, coming
in the 1990s and grounded in political activism,
argued that, “It’s not OK to have breast cancer: We
have to stop it from happening.” Earlier detection and
better treatment were not enough — the goal must be
the prevention of breast cancer.
Before the Movement
During most of the 20th Century, a woman diagnosed
with breast cancer underwent a radical mastectomy.
Decisions were made by physicians, and women
often learned of their cancer diagnosis when waking
up from surgery, absent one breast. A public discus-
sion about breast cancer, especially your breast
cancer, was unthinkable.
The first wave: It’s OK to have breast
cancer: You don’t have to hide it.
The breast cancer movement began to take shape in
the 1970s. Several important events both illustrate
and helped create the early movement:
1) The book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, published in
1973 by the Boston Women’s Health Collective,
provided valuable information and a sense of
control over one’s own health and health care.
2) First Lady Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast
cancer in 1974, and spoke about it openly. Many
survivors took her cue and began talking about
their own experiences, and other women had their
first mammograms, believing that breast cancer
Because no one should face breast cancer aloneBoynton kids care! Boynton Middle School students proudly displaying
their pink wrist bands to show their support of persons with breast
cancer. The stud