Pic courtesy: Sarah Cervantes for Unsplash
Breast cancer, the most common cancer in women, knows no demographic prejudice. In a world where identity, beliefs, and socioeconomic standing continuously divide societies, breast cancer prevails as something that affects us all.
According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer impacts more than 2 million women every year1. Last year alone, 627,000 of those women died2. These statistics are taken from women across the globe, representing the female gender as a collective. However, when comparing the rates of breast cancer between countries, the statistics change. The rate of breast cancer in more developed countries is twice that of less developed countries.
If this statistic seems shocking, it is most likely because of the biases that have become so ingrained in our minds. As children, we are first taught about ourselves, and then about others. As we age, misrepresentation, stereotypes, and misinformation cloud our ability to see the world holistically. Naturally, we may assume that less developed countries would have a higher rate of breast cancer due to disparities in technology or education. However, the exact opposite holds true. Countries that are considered more developed, meaning countries with a more advanced economy and technological infrastructure, have the highest rates of breast cancer.
Breaking Stereotypes in Breast Cancer
So how is it that breast cancer is more commonly found in developed countries, and why is that so hard for us to believe? To approach these questions, it is necessary to understand breast cancer itself. Breast cancer is caused by an abnormally large increase of cells within the breast. The two most common forms of breast cancer are invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), which spreads from the ducts to other parts of the breast tissue, and invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), which disseminates onward from the lobules3. Depending on which type of cancer and how far it has spread, breast cancer can be treated a variety of ways, such as through surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy, or radiation therapy.
While there is no guaranteed prevention, the best ways in which a woman can reduce her risk of developing breast cancer is by knowing its place in her family history, scheduling annual mammogram screenings after the age of 40, maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle, and limiting alcohol consumption.
The reasoning behind countries’ disproportion in breast cancer rates lies in the risk factors themselves. For example, one of the most important ways to reduce cancer risk is by eating healthy and staying active. This has become an issue for more developed countries, such as the U.S., where obesity continues to climb. There have also been studies suggesting higher socioeconomic status is correlated to higher obesity rates 4.
Breast Cancer Support over Stereotypes
In other countries, such as India, breast cancer has surpassed other cancers as the most common cancer in women. There are a number of reasons for this trend, one being the country’s limited access to appropriate medical facilities. Without proper medical attention during the early stages of breast cancer, women may go on uninformed of their disease until it is too late. By analyzing each country, we are able to see the reasoning behind statistics. However, the truth remains. Breast cancer is still the most common and detrimental form of cancer in women worldwide.
Therefore, when it comes to breast cancer, there is no room for demographic biases. As women, we must recognize the precedence that support takes over stereotypes.
October is the international breast cancer awareness month. The goal is to spread information and understanding about the disease to encourage support and educate women about early detection and treatment plans. This October, let us go beyond that. Let us raise awareness globally and spread encouragement and support to all women of all identities. The easiest ways to do this can be by making public social media posts, publishing a personal story on international platforms, making a donation, or encouraging friends and family to get a breast exam.
October is devoted to breast cancer awareness; however, it should also be a reminder to simply support women. All women. Breast cancer knows no prejudice, and neither should we.