I have never had a mammogram. No doctor would recommend one for me, a 59-year-old male. But they would for any woman over 40. Yet many women don’t have them, or forget to keep having them yearly. So our partner, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, is spearheading a novel campaign in the Pacific Northwest to encourage mammograms among friends. They’ve launched a web site, http://www.mammogrampromise.org/, where celebrity women encourage you in a friend-to-friend style to promise to yourself and your friends to have the exam.
The website is cool and I hope it works. But I wish the push for better health in women could go further.
During October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is as if radio and television is turning pink. Football players wear pink, supermarkets – even auto parts dealers – all get on the bandwagon. That is not a bad thing. And the story is pretty simple to understand: early detection, typically through mammograms (which are not foolproof, by the way), save lives. And a diagnosis of breast cancer is terrifying, even though more and more women are surviving it.
But here’s the “elephant in the room.” They are dying in much, much bigger numbers because of heart disease. Heart disease in America is killing more women than all cancers combined.
Does that mean I do not support all the activities for breast cancer awareness this month? Absolutely not. What I wish for is that the really smart people and the commercial entities that are behind breast cancer awareness expand their efforts more broadly in women’s health and take a big bite out of a bigger health problem.
Get women – and teenage girls – to stop smoking.
Get women to control their weight through regular exercise and healthy eating – not diets.
Get women to talk to their doctor about high blood pressure, controlling diabetes, and NOT ignore the distinctively female signs of a heart attack.
I bet I have hosted 40 hours of programs on breast cancer. But only two or three on women and heart disease. We all need to spread out the emphasis. My grandmother died of a sudden heart attack, so did two aunts. My mother died of colon cancer (that’s another condition that needs a big push since it is preventable!) No one, thank God, in my family has had a breast cancer diagnosis.
Please don’t see this blog as a backlash against breast cancer. It is not. Just shooting a flare up, during this time of “PC” media attention on breast cancer, that we need to do at least as much for some other conditions that have even more mortality among the females we love.
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