Global health experts are championing a fresh perspective on cancer care, emphasizing the role of gender equality. Shockingly, around 800,000 women across the globe lose their lives to cancer annually, not because of the disease’s severity, but due to the lack of proper care they receive. This alarming statistic underscores the pressing need to address the gender biases that exist in healthcare.
A groundbreaking study in the Lancet, encompassing data from a whopping 185 nations, sheds light on the grim reality: societal imbalances are directly affecting women’s access to cancer prevention and treatments. While there’s a disproportionate focus on cancers typically associated with women, such as breast and cervical, other lethal cancers, including lung and colorectal, don’t receive the attention they deserve.
The research team, a diverse mix of professionals from fields as varied as law, economics, and cancer epidemiology, is pushing for a paradigm shift. They believe that by integrating a feminist perspective into cancer care, we can bridge the existing gender gaps. Dr. Ophira Ginsburg, associated with the National Cancer Institute’s Centre for Global Health, emphasizes that it’s high time cancer is recognized as a pivotal issue in women’s health.
Another eye-opening revelation from a separate study in the Lancet Global Health is that early detection and diagnosis could have prevented 1.5 million premature cancer deaths in women below 70, just in 2020. Furthermore, major risk factors like tobacco and alcohol consumption, obesity, and infections led to the demise of about 1.3 million women in the same year. The sad part? The gravity of these risk factors in relation to women’s health is often downplayed.
Dr. Isabelle Soerjomataram, a leading voice in the commission, highlights a concerning trend: while the discourse around cancer in women is often limited to “women’s cancers,” other deadly cancers are overshadowing them in terms of mortality rates. She also points a finger at the targeted marketing tactics of tobacco and alcohol companies, urging for policies that counteract their influence on women.
In conclusion, the commission’s call to action is clear: infuse gender considerations into all cancer-related policies. By doing so, and by ramping up efforts to educate women about cancer risks, we can ensure that every woman, irrespective of her background, has equal access to early detection, diagnosis, and treatment.
As Dr. Monica Bertagnolli of the National Cancer Institute aptly puts it, championing gender equality in cancer care is a win for everyone, from individual households to the global community.
Published: September 26, 2023