BRCA Genes, Dr. Ivan Oransky, Previvors and Common Sense

Ever watch the news on television and recognize when a story is biased? Maybe you’ve blown by entire news outlets to avoid certain talking heads. Whether it gets printed, blasted from the car radio, ricocheted through cyberspace or shown on TV, we’re assaulted with a huge amount of fluff out there that purports to be accurate information. The realms of science and medicine are no different from politics or any other arena when it comes to an abundance of conflicting voices, data and opinion. Snake oil comes in many forms. When it gets packaged in a slick presentation by a highly respected, well-known medical journalist like Dr. Ivan Oransky, I pay attention. Today, I’m calling him out.

Step 1.

Watch this video of Dr. Oransky’s presentation at the TEDMED conference in April, 2012. It takes about ten minutes.

Step 2.

Then read an open letter to Dr. Oransky from Sue Friedman, the director of the hereditary cancer non-profit, FORCE.

Step 3.

Finally, read the good doctor’s response. He says the problem is the definition of the term previvor.  Is that the problem?

Here’s my two cents on this:

TEDMED invites leaders from many sectors to its conference on health care and technology. Some of the best and brightest minds the globe has to offer exchange ideas at the cost of nearly $5,000 per attendee. This elite group heard Dr. Oransky’s speech but it is unlikely they will ever read Sue Friedman’s letter or Oransky’s wimpy response. They will believe that previvorship is a suspect notion promulgated by a greedy non-profit. How sad.

I’m not an M.D. or a journalist. I did not attend Harvard. Oransky did. I am a housewife, a BRCA positive breast cancer survivor and a skeptical, voracious consumer of information related to my health problems. A dose of common sense is all it takes to recognize that Oransky did a masterful job of saying we’re all responsible at some level for the failures of our troubled health care system. It was also pretty obvious that he got some facts wrong. To call his audience “previvors” for surviving his talk was merely a poor joke.

I’m also thankful that FORCE is there for me and Dr. Oransky is not on my medical team. As far as I can tell the only thing I have in common with him is an appreciation for good Zinfandel. I wonder if he’s ever tried the Linne Calodo wine called Problem Child?


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