The breast cancer epidemic

Issue 

The Cutting Edge — Agatha's Curse

SBS TV

Tuesday, March 29, 8.30pm (8 Adelaide)

Reviewed by Jill Hickson

This moving program alerts us to the grim picture for women in Australia. Breast cancer will kill 2500 Australian women this year. One in every 14 Australian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime; predictions are that in a decade this will rise to one in 10.

Interviews with doctors and with women who have experienced the disease give an insight into the procedures used in dealing with it. The program tended to favour the Western medical response, mainly mastectomies, the use of drugs — often experimental — radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

It also looked at some alternative methods, and included an interview with Ian Gawler, who, having survived cancer, runs a health clinic in Melbourne which provides alternative methods of coping with cancer.

I found the program lacking any real analysis about why the disease is on the increase. It became clear in watching that doctors have no real idea what causes breast cancer.

The only real attempt to politicise the issue was in regard to the lack of funding for research on prevention and treatment. It was raised in a comparison to current AIDS funding; no attempt was made to suggest that even AIDS funding is not adequate.

Depressing and bizarre in places, and filled with largely irrelevant religious overtones, the program concludes with a statement that surgery is still the best option, regardless of evidence presented earlier that mastectomies do nothing to prevent recurrence of the disease.