Clothing Company Founder Angers Customers by Opting Out of Mammograms

mammogramOctober is breast cancer awareness month -- the time of year when pink ribbons abound and everyone's talking about what we can and should do to stay healthy. But the founder of a popular women's clothing brand believes opting out of mammograms might be the way to go.


Ever heard of Title Nine? It's a company that sells active women's clothing. The clothes are pretty dreamy -- cozy sweaters that are okay to actually sweat in, boots that can transition from school pickup to happy hour or even a two-mile walk around the park...

But we digress.

Title Nine's always had a "Hey, how are ya? We're real people" attitude. (How else would we know that the company record for holding "plank pose" is 10 minutes or that someone on staff broke a nose at work?)

The company blog regularly includes musings from its founder, Missy Park. Typically, they're full of girl power (which is still necessary when you become an adult, FYI). But Missy's latest entry is decidedly more controversial: why she decided to opt out of mammograms -- even though, as she shares, her mother and grandmother both had breast cancer AND mastectomies.

And even though Missy has been labeled "high risk."

Her reasoning has to do with the fact that her mother's breast cancer was, she says, "a direct result" of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which, for a while, was THE standard of care for menopausal women.

HRT is still around, but today, more careful consideration is given as to who receives it and for how long. Still, the link between it and breast cancer is an unsettling reminder that modern medicine is constantly evolving. Treatments and procedures once thought "beneficial" are sometimes found to be unsafe for some women.

More from The Stir: New Cancer Awareness Campaign Is Beyond Offensive (VIDEO)

Missy's other reason has to do with where all the money that's raised for breast cancer research actually goes. As she writes:

Turns out that 'awareness' gets 84 cents of every 'breast cancer' dollar raised and actual RESEARCH only gets 16 cents. So we get a lot of ... awareness.

We also get a lot of mammograms and a lot of self-exams and a lot of biopsies and a lot of false diagnoses and a lot of insidious, stage 0 cancers and A LOT OF fear.

But we do not get a cure or even an improvement in mortality rates.

Missy goes on to say that when it comes to pulling out her checkbook, she's going to make sure her money goes to "actual research that will lead to real improvement in mortality rates." She also writes:

Until that day comes, I'm opting out of mammograms. Certainly not the right choice for everybody or really maybe anybody else, but for me, it's a choice that makes me rest easier, a choice I can live with.

Over 500 women have commented on Missy's post so far. Some agree with her and thank her for speaking her mind. Others are, in a word, outraged.

"Missy Parker should stick to what she does best, selling clothes," wrote one. "Sending out this email was at best irresponsible."

"Missy's method of distributing her message has upset 100s of us survivors and medical professionals who see the lives mammograms save every day," another noted.

More than a few have announced they'll no longer buy clothes from Title Nine.

It's kind of stunning that someone with so much to lose (in this case, customers) would take such a controversial stand.

But "Title Nine has never been just about the clothes," Missy says in an interview with The Stir. "Our hope was, and still is, to encourage women to step out, lean in, and step up in the world of sports, business, and health."

If Title Nine had sent a usual sales-driving email to subscribers, "we would have gotten more sales, but less engagement," Missy tells The Stir. "More money, but far less meaning."

She says that she -- and the whole Title Nine team -- stand behind the message.

After all, mammograms are pretty controversial. Last year, a study that followed 90,000 women over 25 years found that mammograms didn't necessarily lead to more women surviving breast cancer.

In fact, it pointed out that mammograms could lead to OVER-diagnosis. The American Cancer Society recently released new breast cancer screening guidelines, suggesting women start having fewer mammograms for that very reason.

As for how well our breast cancer research dollars are spent, well, Missy's not baselessly ranting all Fox News–like, either. The Internet is rife with well-researched articles quoting experts admitting that a lot of cash comes in, but not a lot of cures are coming out.

Whether you agree or not with Missy's stance, you have to admit -- it took a lot of guts to share her POV. And isn't "courage" the most important part of breast cancer awareness?

"I was super-impressed with the quality of dialogue generated [by the post]," Missy tells The Stir. "There was a healthy, and quite civil, sharing of experience, fact, and feeling. If the strength of our community is measured by the quality of our discourse, well, we're strong indeed."

And hopefully "strong enough, smart enough, and persistent enough," she adds, "to change the course of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment."


Image via © yumiyum/iStock

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