Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines and the Pink Glove Dance

Warning: I’m putting on my white coat for this one.

I recently posted the video “Pink Glove Dance,” created by Oregon-based Providence St. Vincent Medical Center to raise breast cancer awareness. I received the following comment: “Dumb downed—think pink is past its time. This is insulting to women – they need science, facts, not moronic dances.”

Because I was not provided with a means to reply to this individual directly, I decided to reply publicly instead.

First and foremost, if by posting this video I have offended anyone, I sincerely apologize. Just in case, I have removed the video from my post. It was never my intention to belittle or insult women. As a gynecologist, I have devoted over twenty years of my life to helping and empowering women in creating healthier lives-- including those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I have witnessed far too many women, including close friends, suffer or die from this disease. I, of course, fully support continued research to find better solutions and agree that we have waited far too long for breast cancer research and, frankly, for most women’s health research.

Regardless of what any of us may think of “pink,” or the use or misuse of this term, this video has become viral and is reaching hundreds of thousands of people. This was their intent, to raise awareness. By and large, most comments to articles about this video going viral on sites such as The Huffington Post have been overwhelmingly positive. With the exception of the hundreds of pink gloves used to produce this video (don’t get me started on the environmental and health effects) I, personally, cannot diss Providence St. Vincent Medical Center for their creative approach, especially if it brings more support for the continued research that we need to save our women.

Because many of you have asked for information regarding the new breast cancer screening guidelines, and because I do not use my blog to post medical information, I have decided to launch the Creating Feminine Health Newsletter to address current women’s health topics such as these new guidelines. This newsletter is free. It is my gift to you. If you are interested in receiving it, please sign send your full name and email address to: rebecca (at) rebeccaelia (dot)com or on the home page of my website:
Excellent New York Times post explaining the research behind the new breast cancer screening guidelines.

And, by the way, commenter, if you happen to read this, I completely agree with the information in the link that you supplied regarding the limitations of mammography screening and had already addressed this in my newsletter, just as I hope it will be discussed between each woman and her healthcare provider.


  1. i saw this on cnn today... and smiled. that is what it is supposed to do, make us smile...

    anyone who has an issue with it needs an attitude adjustment.

    jus' my two cents.

  2. Hi Rebecca;

    I'm really surprised to hear that anyone misinterpreted what you posted, considering you always present such insightful, useful and thought provoking material.

    Speaking for myself, I wish you didn't remove the video, simply because the post in its entirety, I'm sure was something that need to be written.

    I'm dissapointed in the person who left the comment they did without leaving their identity. I think they missed the point.

    As always, I love and appreciate your posts. Few doctors really try to understand what it's like to be a patient and to not have the same knowledge about their bodies scientifcally that doctors have. You were and remain a rare and special gift to patients. I THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU.


  3. Thanks Quin and Katie!

    In all fairness to the commenter, she did leave her first name, but I was unable to locate a contact email address to reply to her directly. I could have done that below the video, but this post needed to be written--so I'm glad it worked out this way.

    It's great how this video has gone viral; I'm glad that it's getting so much attention. After all, that's the first step in raising awareness.

    By the way, you can still link to the video from this post through "Pink Glove Dance" in the second sentence.

  4. Rebecca,

    Please re-post the video! I, for one, LOVED it!

    My family is plagued with cancer - seriously, every single one of my relatives dies of it. Its unfortunate, but my family has come to terms with it and anything that raises awareness is alright in my (our) book.

    You know what? I'll post it in my blog and link back to you because it means just that much to me.

    Anyone who was offended definitely needs a reality check. If those of us who are affected first-hand aren't offended, then why would anyone else be? ALL THE FACTS ARE OUT THERE, AND ITS TIME THAT MORE PEOPLE TOOK NOTICE!

    Thank you for doing your part and inspiring me to make that my next blog entry.


  5. I did not make the comment, but similarly don't like the video. I'm not offended by it. But neither do I think it does anything for breast cancer.smiling at a video? Not sure how that helps "the cause." Just because you forward a video to 100 of your closest friends doesn't mean you are doing anything.

    The part that offended me was the lie in the accompanying text of the video that sometimes was forwarded which stated at a million hits that the hospital would receive a huge cash prize from the company. This is patently untrue. This is dangerous as people feel they are doing something good but in fact are not.

    People dancing around in pink gloves? Nope. I don't like it. I don't want to smile or dance or feel good about losing my breasts, ovaries, hair, and everything else cancer has taken from me. I don't need to put on gloves and dance, and I don't think we need more awareness of this kind. It wasn't educational or informative and didn't even remind women to do self-exams or mammograms.

    To me? It's a big ad for a glove company, nothing more. The urban legend component can be seen at

  6. P.S. By what mechanism do you claim it will bring "support for research" at the hospital? How exactly will that happen? The only support that matters is financial. The only financial part of this is if people buy the gloves. Unless you are the hospital buyer then watching the video misleadingly makes it seem you are doing something to help, (as you similarly do), but aren't.

    While I don't think people's motives are intentionally bad, I do find it a false feeling (baseless) of doing something good. Write a check or volunteer instead. I cringe every time someone forwards it to me. I will be happy when it's gone.

  7. Thank you for your comments, Lisa.

    Your insight is helpful in understanding what some are finding offensive about this video. I certainly can understand, too, how this could be seen as making light of an extremely serious situation, and could even be viewed as disrespectful to those women who have had to suffer through this devastating disease.

    I did not become aware of this video through a chain letter, and I did not see the attached text that you describe. If I had, I would have been thoroughly turned off by it, as well.

    When I stated the hope that this bring "more support for continued research" I was speaking in general, not specific terms. Usually, as a greater number of people are reached, research funding also increases. My understanding was that this was the purpose of the video. If this was not the case, then I have made a wrong assumption.

    And Nacole, this is the reason why I removed the video--because it was never my intent to offend anyone. Quite the contrary. As I mentioned, I, too, have had very dear women in my life die from breast cancer; I am sorry that you have had this devasting experience too.

    I hope that we continue to move forward in finding better solutions, increasing preventive practices, and instituting better screening methods for earlier detection.

  8. I'm the one who didn't like the video.

    Here's why: it cocoons women into making breast cancer awareness the end point. We need to, we have to, we must take women seriously as people able to understand science. Cutesy campaigns, walks, rides, bungee jumping, rollerblading all for breast cancer makes you think you are doing something, when it only obscures real truths. In fact, it is exactly what any sophisticated marketing campaign is all about: Buy without thinking so we can continue the con. The cancer industry is a con.

    I know we can teach logic, reason and science. I know because I went from dumb downed, put downed can't do math to straight A's in stats at Stanford and at one time I could deconstruct a double blind for fraud in a heartbeat. I want for everyone what I know - the way out is through the tough stuff. The data, the science, the ability to be tough to the marketing and say no to more fluff. Fluff is just not good enough for us.

    How much awareness do we need? And do we jingle our way through genocide in Darfur? Of course not. So why do it for women who might die?

    I am the daughter of a woman who died at age 52 from pancreatic cancer. For her, for anyone with cancer:

    I'm not a humorless b*tch...I am the dumb blonde though..

  9. from bonnieZ

    Rebecca - your blog consistently conveys that you have compassion for both your patients and your followers. I echo katie: " Few doctors really try to understand what it's like to be a patient and to not have the same knowledge about their bodies scientifically." you offer real constructive interactions not just token activities (pink glove dance). You are much appreciated.

  10. For full disclosure, here is the original email which accompanied the video. You will note its intent is to "promote the new gloves" and then makes the false claim about a huge donation.

    I also find it odd that Nacole would claim "ownership" of how breast cancer patients feel ("if those who are affected first hand aren't offended why should anyone else be")... fascinating that she claims ownership of how the video should be interpreted. Very presumptuous.

    Though my heart aches for her and her many losses from breast cancer, she doesn't state that she has had it. In my mind "being affected first hand" also includes HAVING IT YOURSELF. So, my opinion and interpretation are equally as valid, Nacole.

    I would never assume to speak for all breast cancer patients/survivors, and find it interesting that she would do so, and speak for me. Maybe awareness of the differing ways of how breast cancer survivors interpret media portrayals is a more fitting need in the "breast cancer awareness" arena.

    the original email, FYI. I've removed the names originally mentioned in it.

    >> "Our daughter-in-law, created, directed and
    >> choreographed this in Portland last week for her Medline glove division
    >> as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. This was all her idea to
    >> help promote their new pink gloves. I don't know how she got so many
    >> employees, doctors and patients to participate, but it started to really
    >> catch on and they all had a lot of fun doing it.
    >> When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge
    >> contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the
    >> community. Please check it out. It's an easy and great way to donate to
    >> a wonderful cause, and who hasn't been touched by breast cancer?"

  11. Rebecca,

    You can always tell you're making a difference when sparks start to fly. I appreciated and learned something from the point of view of every comment I read. Good for you for moderating the discussion without either growing defensive or abandoning your viewpoint. I know you're a compassionate person dedicated to empowering women. That will attract feminine power from all over the spectrum. Looking forward to many more such interesting discussions.

    Thanks for giving me much to think about,

  12. Ann—Thank you for sharing your opinion and explaining what you find offensive about this video. If it weren’t for your initial comment, we never would have had this discussion.

    Lisa—It is devastating to deal with breast cancer, and no one belittles your experience. I appreciate your courage in speaking up.

    Nacole—Many of us have experienced the devastating effects of losing family members or close friends to cancer. We also understand how this loss continues to affect us daily.

    I am saddened that our frustration, anger and grief are being directed at one another. Instead of concentrating on who is suffering the most, I would hope that we would concentrate on how best to find solutions to end this suffering. You are a very special and unique group of women--intelligent, gifted and powerful. I would hope that we would stand together in supporting research for better testing and a cure.

    We can all agree that women’s health issues and research need to be given much more time, money and attention. We are all on the same side. I hope that we don’t lose sight of this.

  13. Your blog post about breast cancer screening was really nice.Friends of Faith is a nonprofit organization battle against breast cancer and conduct event. If interested here the details

  14. Thank you for the information and comment, Xumri. Also, I have a free newsletter that covers such topics as the recent changes in screening guideline recommendations for breast and cervical cancer. Sign up through home page of: