I'm actually ill after reading this article.
Breast Cancer Vaccine...but there's a catch.
To summarize, the vaccine is being created to target a certain type of protein that is found in breast tumors. This protein is also found in the milk of lactating women, meaning that the vaccine would destroy a woman's ability to breastfeed. The vaccine may also be able to shrink existing tumors. It would be given to young women who are considered to be high-risk and also to women in their 40's.
The writer of the article is rather cavalier about dismissing the inability to breastfeed as a result, saying "there are choices to be made." This prospect bothers me because most of our culture is content to dismiss breastfeeding entirely, because "there are choices to be made." "It's a mother's choice; it's about what's right for her and her family." This vaccine, if it takes off, will render more and more women unable to breastfeed, and no one but those of us now on the "fringes" of mothering society will even care.
You see, breastfeeding is "a choice." Many mothers in our culture feel that a mother who chose to breastfeed could have just as easily chosen not to, that any given feeding at the breast can be replaced with impunity by expressed milk or, even easier, formula. Breastfeeding presented as a lifestyle choice completely discounts the ill effects possible from formula and the who-knows-what that is in it. Sure, you and you and you were fed formula and you turned out fine...but who knows, maybe being breastfed would have improved your life; you might not have the chronic illness that you have. You might have an easier time controlling your weight. You might spend less money on prescription drugs. Or you might turn out the same...but you never know.
Yes, I said "ill effect from formula" rather than "benefit of breastfeeding." Read this essay by Diane Weissinger to understand why.
Breastfeeding REDUCES the risk of breast cancer. Not only does it reduce the risk for the mother, but it reduces the risk for her daughters. So, thank you Mommy, for breastfeeding me and for encouraging me to do so for my children. Yes, I know that it doesn't eliminate the risk. My favorite lactation consultant nursed her 3 kids for nearly 2 years each, and yet she had breast cancer. And she says that she would not have forgone breastfeeding in order to receive the vaccine. I'm the last person with whom you want to talk statistics. Remember...mom of a kid who had a rare cancer...Having children and NOT breastfeeding them or barely breastfeeding them at all puts a mother at greater risk for breast cancer. And again, it doesn't GUARANTEE that the mother will get it because she chose not to breastfeed.
Life is about playing the odds.
I'm all for this treatment being marketed for the post-nursing demographic of women, the 40+ or so age bracket.
Younger women, however, don't know how they would be affected by not breastfeeding, nor how their future children might be affected. It would be horrific to find this marketed at younger women, saying "there are choices to be made." There are laundry lists of scare tactics that will likely be used to get people to agree to get this treatment, which is probably not cheap (nor easy, or they might have figured it out before). Yes, I am aware of how horrible breast cancer is. Yet, this is just too high of a price to pay...and the tragedy is, very few people agree.