Posted on January 10, 2024

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

SABCS 2023: Foreword

We’ve returned for another year at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), the world’s largest breast cancer conference. At the symposium, our goal is to bring the most important and relevant breast cancer research updates, back to our members, and to be an outspoken voice on behalf of people living with and at risk of breast cancer. BCAction brings a unique advocacy lens to this space. We elevate  the patient perspective and hold breast cancer researchers, doctors, and scientists accountable to the people they care for. We’re able to remain a radical watchdog for the breast cancer landscape, even when we enter spaces like these, concerned foremost with the advancement of biotech and pharmaceuticals – because of our strict conflict of interest policy. We’ll never take money from any entity that profits from, or contributes to, breast cancer.

Some of the highlights of this year’s SABCS include:

  • Finally, breast cancer patient care is heading in a holistic direction – life stressors are shown to impact health, healing, and recovery.
  • Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) account for as much as 50% of the country-level variation in health outcomes.
  • Women with a pathogenic variant in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene face the highest known lifetime risks of developing breast cancer. Notably, incidence rates increase rapidly in early adulthood but remain high even after age 60.
  • Updated clinical studies that compare rates of recurrence in women with DCIS across racial and ethnic groups have identified factors associated with recurrence.
  • Updated clinical studies on hormonal contraceptive use demonstrate an association with an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • The medical industrial complex continues to deepen its focus on medication and risk assessments as the best strategies for
  • We observed a decrease in the presence of, and panels with, patient advocates.
  • And, notably, not much progress has been made toward fair, equitable, and affordable medicine for all.

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium is dominated by scientists and clinicians who are eager to present the latest research and practices. In this  fast-paced environment, medical jargon and complex science can be hard to understand.

Patients are asked to trust the science, a common theme weaved throughout the four-day symposium, yet the patient voice is not centered in these spaces. Over the years there has been a growing presence of patient advocates at the symposium, but this year the presence of patient advocates decreased. We need immediate advancements in breast cancer treatments to address and end this public health crisis; we do not have  time for the voice of patient advocates to be  isolated. This disease requires a collective approach across the breast cancer movement and science.

This collaborative work must result in direct action to prioritize prevention, and large-scale public health strategies to address the root causes of the disease.

As the watchdog of the breast cancer movement, we educate, organize, and TAKE ACTION for systemic change. Serving in this unique role means we work tirelessly to demand accountability and transparency from institutions, corporations, nonprofits, and regulatory 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 the work to achieve health justice for all.