While many of us enjoy the convenience and ease of technology that gives us online bill pay, email communication, and other advantages that the United States Postal Service just can’t provide us with, there is something that the USPS and stamps are doing that your automatic debits and Gmail accounts definitely aren’t: raising funds for breast cancer research.
Short History of the Breast Cancer Stamps in the US
In 1997, then president Bill Clinton signed into law the semi-postal, or charity stamp, as it is sometimes known. Over the years, these special stamps have been sold at slightly higher prices than the normal first-class stamp in order to raise money for certain charities. Some current examples are the Save the Vanishing Species stamp (proceeds to help protect endangered species) and the Alzheimer’s stamp (proceeds toward Alzheimer’s research). But the breast cancer awareness stamp, released in 1988, was the first of its kind.
Fast forward to 2018 and the breast cancer semi-postal stamp has worked exactly as it was intended to. You could even say that it’s gone well above and beyond anyone’s expectations. Those extra little pennies on the first-class stamp have definitely added up over the past twenty years. To the tune of roughly 1.035 billion stamps sold; that’s 86 million dollars toward a study that, due to its potential to alter the sales of some drug companies, many never thought would come to fruition.
The proceeds from the special breast cancer stamps were used by the National Institutes of Health and Medical Research Program of the Department of Defense in order to supply money for much-needed breast cancer research, most specifically in this case toward clinical studies that sought to test the benefits of chemotherapy on early-stage breast cancer patients.
Surprising Results from the Chemo Research
And although the proceeds have of course been important to the study as whole, the initial 4.5 million reached was utilized for paying for the extremely expensive genetic tests that patients needed to take in order to even conduct any of this research, research that eventually led to the affirmation that chemotherapy, does not, in fact, impact the patient positively in any way, shape, or form.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, “most women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, axillary node-negative early-stage breast cancer and a mid-range score on a 21-tumor gene expression assay (Oncotype DX® Breast Recurrence Score) do not need chemotherapy after surgery.” Adding chemotherapy into treatment did not improve survival or prevent recurrence.
At its most basic form, chemotherapy can be defined as the method of treatment of a disease (such as cancer) with chemicals. These toxic chemicals can cause some common side effects like fatigue or nausea, but they are also known to cause some devastating side effects like fertility problems, hair loss, and reduced focus and alertness (or chemo brain). Knowing that chemotherapy makes no difference to a large segment of breast cancer patients will make a huge difference those who have undergone surgery, as well as the doctors who treat cancer.
The stamp itself depicts a female with her right arm raised above and behind her hand, a gesture that is synonymous with the self-examination check that women are advised to do once a month to check their breasts for any changes in their appearance or feel, which could be an indication of cancer.
And as funds continue to come in, research will continue to be done. If you are interested in being a part of this contribution, you can purchase stamps yourself at your local post office or online in blocks of 4 ($2.60), 10 ($6.50), or 20 ($13.00).
For more information on this life-changing breast cancer study, see the official ASCO website.