October 25, 2007

Breast Cancer: The Biggest Issue Facing Women?

Filed under: Opinion — idealistferret @ 8:21 am

Before I even start, I would like to say that I have absolutely nothing against breast cancer survivors. I also think that the groups that support awareness of breast cancer are doing a good thing. I’m not trying to say that any of these people are evil, malicious, or just out for sympathy, so please don’t think that this is what I am trying to say.

However, I have noticed lately that every time I turn on the television, I see an ad about breast cancer — Susan G. Komen Foundation, doing self exams on the eleventh of every month, and even (shudder) being someone’s bra. Given the amount of attention that breast cancer receives, one would think that it strikes at least half, if not more, of the female population.

The problem is, breast cancer strikes only 12.7% of American women (according to the National Cancer Institute). According to the American Heart Association, twice as many women die of strokes and heart attacks than die from all forms of cancer. This leads to the question, “Why have women focused on a disease that is less likely to kill them than their trans-fat eating, sedentary ways?” I honestly think that the reason why breast cancer is such a popular cause among women is because it is a women’s disease (even though some men do get it) and because talking to survivors leads to uplifting stories about their faith and the support of their families.

There is another issue in the United States that affects many more women than men, but it receives almost no television advertising: domestic abuse. According to, 31% of women are physically or sexually abused by a partner during their lives. Putting the spotlight on domestic abuse would make a huge impact on the lives of American women. If domestic abuse received the same attention as breast cancer, no man in his right mind would abuse a woman, as everyone would know risk factors and signs of abuse and women would know that they are not alone and would no longer be ashamed to step forward and admit that they are being put through hell.

I think that there are several reasons that domestic abuse has not received this level of attention. The first is that we, as Americans, respect each other’s privacy and are hesitant to pry into other’s business. Another is that organizations dedicated to assisting victims of domestic abuse have to allocate their funding towards projects that better benefit survivors (such as shelters, counseling, and legal assistance) instead of towards awareness and prevention. Sadly enough, I really do feel that the lack of inspiring stories of survival also plays a part in this. Listening to the recollections of a domestic abuse victim is a horrific experience. Not only is it disturbing, but it also brings out such a profound pity for the victim that it is almost unbearable.

It is well and good to focus attention on breast cancer and even heart disease, but we need to remember that 1/3 of the women in our nation are surviving abuse. That is the women’s issue that we need never forget.

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