By Vera Gruessner
While the United States takes part in spreading more knowledge during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women in developing countries who find a lump in their breast are more likely to keep quiet and not visit their doctor, said Dr. Ben Anderson, a surgical oncologist who is the director of the Breast Health Global Initiative at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. National Public Radio interviewed Dr. Anderson and learned about women’s decline for breast exams.
“The rate is rising in China up to 5 percent a year. That’s a lot,” Dr. Anderson told the news source. “This is why we have to start thinking of breast cancer globally, rather than as what many assumed incorrectly is just a problem of high income countries. The majority of breast cancers are in low- and middle-income countries today, and we have to be thinking how to manage [the disease] in resource-appropriate ways.”
Additionally, the doctor explained that some cultures believe that there is something wrong with a woman’s family if she is diagnosed with breast cancer. As such, it is more difficult for that woman’s daughter to find marriage. This is a major problem because older women in these settings are less likely to seek medical help.
These type of cultural stereotypes need to be changed in order to save lives! The healthcare industry within developing nations needs to work toward educating women on their health.
It is also disconcerting to hear Anderson’s anecdotes about some second world countries from the 1980s where doctors feared telling patients they could have cancer in case the patients attempted to commit suicide. Doctors have a duty to tell their patients what their diagnosis is and what treatment options they have in front of them.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is important to spread the message of breast self-exams and yearly physicals throughout the world. It is vital to spread this movement beyond the US and into developing countries. Early diagnosis could save lives around the globe.