By Jennifer Beeman

Here is the latest edition of Breast Cancer Action Quebec’s wonderful newsletter. Produced by a team of committed professionals, this is not your average community group newsletter. Our semi-annual online publication contains original articles, reprints and translations of important writing published elsewhere, plus the feature section More News to Peruse: links to wide-ranging news of interest including recent scientific articles.

However, in our world of fleeting, Web-based news, there is a tendency to read or skim articles that correspond to our own view of the world. At the same time, news media outlets are increasingly owned by fewer companies, as are institutions in many sectors. These trends mean that genuine debate—exchanging viewpoints and contrasting the emerging scientific consensus—is becoming much less common, despite the feeling that we are inundated with news.

To combat this trend, we are launching a new feature, Debates. The field of breast cancer urgently needs more vibrant debates, exchanges and discussions that include a wide range of voices. Discussions tend to be dominated by institutions seeking to maintain control of the discourse on specific issues (the complex issues concerning mammography are a prime example), rendering other issues invisible (a good example of this are the environmental causes of breast cancer).

Our first debate subject is the phenomenon of post-breast cancer topless photoshoots. An unexpected issue perhaps but a fascinating one, once you look beyond the photos themselves. It became our focus when a new BCA-Qc member, Julie Michaud, a young woman who has recently had a double mastectomy, shared the piece she wrote in response to receiving a request to participate in such a shoot. Like Julie herself, the piece is brilliant. But I strongly disagreed with it. I, too,  had been observing with interest the phenomenon of women revealing their post-mastectomy bodies on Facebook, in books and art exhibits, in magazines and on websites and had been puzzling out its meaning. And while I agree with much of what Julie wrote, I have a different interpretation of the phenomenon and reach different conclusions. I am older than Julie and have not gone through breast cancer; I do not know how that changes the way I see this phenomenon, but it undoubtedly does. We asked Julie if we could publish her piece in a debate forum with a text from me and she gamely accepted.

So enjoy, reflect, comment, and tell us your own story. We need more voices participating in these conversations.