The Politics of Breast Cancer

The Politics of Breast Cancer

The Politics of Breast Cancer

The Politics of Breast Cancer

Synopsis

Between 1990 and 1993, breast cancer activism became a significant political movement. The issue began to receive extensive media attention, and federal funding for breast cancer research jumped dramatically. Describing the origins of this surge in interest, Maureen Hogan Casamayou attributes it to the emergence of politically potent activism among breast cancer survivors and their supporters. Exploring the creation and development of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), she shows how many of its key leaders were mobilized by their own traumatic experiences with the disease and its treatments. Casamayou details the NBCC's meteoric rise and impressive lobbying efforts, explaining how -- in contrast to grassroots movements founded by dedicated individuals -- the coalition grew from the simultaneous efforts of a network of women who invested their time, energy, money, and professional skills in the fight for increased funding for breast cancer research. This multiple leadership -- or collective entrepreneurialism, says Casamayou -- was crucial to the NBCC's success framing the issue in the minds of the public and policymakers alike.

Excerpt

This book aims to explain why funding levels for breast cancer research suddenly achieved extensive media coverage as well as both attention and action from Congress and the White House in the period between 1990 and 1993. These developments were largely a consequence of the emergence of new players in the breast cancer research policy arena—legions of angry women and their allies, effectively mobilized by entrepreneurial leaders in the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC).This community of women, sharing similar experiences and interests, wanted both more funding for breast cancer research and changes in the treatment of the disease. This book tells their compelling story and puts it in a larger political context.

One of the most fascinating things about the NBCC and its activists is how they managed to redefine the problem of breast cancer in the biomedical research policy arena. Many of these activists had been mobilized into action by their own traumatic experiences associated with the diagnosis and subsequent treatments for the disease. For most of them, their fundamental policy preferences flowed directly from those experiences. What interests me is how these women—these health-consumer advocates who had been on the receiving end of the then-current treatment programs for breast cancer—had managed to redefine the problem of breast cancer, just as the biomedical establishment had previously managed to define it through its own scientific norms and values.

I should be clear at the outset that it was my own personal and direct experience with this disease—and the loss of a loved one to it—that . . .

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