Posted on December 15, 2021

By Krystal Redman (KR), DrPH, MHA (they/she)

Foreword – SABCS 2021

We’re back at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) this year where our goal is to bring the most important and relevant breast cancer research updates, from the world’s largest breast cancer conference, back to our members and to be an outspoken voice on behalf of people living with breast cancer. BCAction brings a unique advocacy lens to this space, where we will be elevating our patient perspective and keeping breast cancer researchers, doctors, and scientists accountable to the people they aim to benefit. We’re able to occupy a uniquely patient-oriented perspective in the breast cancer field because of our strict conflict of interest policy—we’ll never take money from any entity that profits from or contributes to breast cancer.

This was my first time at SABCS, and in reviewing past years’ SABCS programming, I could not help but notice the increased emphasis on equity in research and care, the inclusivity of BIPOC communities in science, trust, and conversations around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and breast cancer. Mainly, I was pleased to see that SABCS held some space to center conversations about trust in science, and uplifted conversations on examining “the impact of race in breast cancer.” I think that the science and the breast cancer community needs to actually go beyond that, and intentionally name that the “impact” on breast cancer stems not from “race” but instead Racism. And, more specifically, these communities need to name the impact racism has on breast cancer or any health outcomes of Black and brown folx. 

With this in mind, in the blogs that I have written following this year’s SABCS, the recurring theme for us is clear—trust, accountability, and health equity—all in an effort to address and dismantle racism in order to truly address and end breast cancer. 

Breast cancer is a health justice issue and a public health crisis. Individual action alone, whether in terms of lifestyle or behavioral choices, is not sufficient to tackle the root causes of the breast cancer epidemic. At Breast Cancer Action, we focus on systemic interventions that will address the root causes of the disease and produce broad public health benefits. These benefits will ensure that fewer people develop breast cancer and die from breast cancer and so that no community bears a disproportionate burden of diagnosis or death from this disease.

We at BCAction believe it’s depressingly past time we intentionally and consistently name racism as a leading cause of health injustices, and essentially a leading cause to breast cancer risk, diagnosis, and death. This is why we are centering anti-racism and tactics of disrupting and rebuilding systems rooted in the oppression and harm of BIPOC communities, in our new strategic plan. We cannot wait to begin formally implementing these practices internally, in our ongoing radical work, and sharing them with you all externally.

As the watchdog of the breast cancer movement, we educate, organize and TAKE ACTION for systemic change. Serving in the unique role of the breast cancer industry watchdog means we work tirelessly to demand accountability and transparency from institutions, corporations, nonprofits, and agencies that impact the lives of people living with and at risk of breast cancer, to address and end this disease.

Our reputation for honesty and truth-telling allows us to tell truth to power, and to bring you the straight-talk we’re known for when translating the science back to our members, whom it most directly impacts.

This year’s SABCS has concluded, but we will continue to use our independent, watchdog voice on behalf of people living with and at risk of breast cancer in our work towards achieving health justice.