Should we Care?
Written by: J. Stokes – November 15, 2016
Just last year, we posted an article in reference to the media hype surrounding women and breast cancer. We pointed out that despite breast cancer’s wide appeal it is only the second most common cancer among women in the U.S. after skin cancer. We furthermore highlighted the remarkable fact that heart disease is an even greater threat, responsible for around 22.4 percent of deaths in women (one in every four deaths according to the CDC) compared to the 21.5 percent of deaths due to cancer as a whole.
It should be noted, however, that there is some debate surrounding cancer rates. The National Cancer Institute has asserted that the most common type of cancer is in fact breast cancer, an assertion echoed by the latest CDC report despite the aforementioned claim about skin cancer given by the American Cancer Society. Disputes such as this are likely to cause some confusion. However, one thing is for certain; heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the U.S.
At the conclusion of our original post, we stressed having more media coverage on heart disease, as well as making that coverage appealing to viewers. However, potential barriers were also brought to light. One potential barrier involved advertisements made for fast food and beer (which are both linked to heart disease). Companies backing such products would lose out on a significant amount of money if media stressed the importance of heart disease in women and rallied to stop the promotion of harmful foods. It’s simple to make a televised PSA about mammography screenings. Using that same method urging women to put down a cheeseburger or a bag of chips is another matter altogether. Given this roadblock to limiting heart disease in women, one must ask “should we care?”
Our original post concerning media fascination with breast cancer in women was met with some comments from eager readers (that kinda’ has a ring to it). Instead of answering people in the comments section individually, we thought it best to address this matter via blog post. One person wondered if the prevalence of women living with and surviving from breast cancer was the reason for its widespread appeal among Americans. This was a good point. In essence, this reader was saying that breast cancer receives attention because it is a chronic disease, otherwise known as a disease that persists over a long period of time. Chronic diseases, in general, effect about half of all adults and accounts for 86 percent of the nation’s healthcare costs. Furthermore, Marrero, Bloom, and Adashi (2012) have asserted that chronic diseases can hinder economic growth, interfere with efforts to limit poverty, and compromise millennium development goals. Given this understanding, it might be helpful for media to highlight methods of preventing breast cancer in addition to celebrating success stories. We’ve mentioned the use of PSAs concerning mammography screening. Self-breast exams is another area worth noting. However, did you know that breast cancer and heart disease share some of the same risk factors? One such risk factor is obesity. And do you know what the major cause of obesity is? We’ll give you a hint:
Despite these findings, it should be asked whether or not media coverage on avoiding harmful foods and drinks would even make a difference. First, those suffering from obesity might not be able to afford more nutritious foods. We’re sure the average American is likely to choose a meal from KFC over shopping at Whole Foods. Furthermore, obesity continues to be an epidemic affecting people of all ages in the U.S. This has remained the case even though First Lady Michelle Obama made efforts to decrease obesity, specifically childhood obesity, through her Let’s Move initiative. So then, should we care about the media coverage of heart disease in women?
Another comment was made in our original post concerning the media coverage of men with breast cancer (yes, that’s a thing). Breast cancer in men might not be receiving much attention because of its rare occurrence. According to Gondusky et al. (2015), male breast cancer comprises less than one percent of all breast cancers. Barber (2014) furthermore asserts it may “be difficult to diagnose breast cancer in men” (p. 497). Given these statistics, should we care or make a big fuss about media covering this issue? The answer to that is complex. First, let’s discuss the obvious; the suppression of women’s voices. A possible consequence of media focusing on breast cancer in men as much as women could be that women might feel overshadowed or unfairly represented. The U.S. has a history of oppressing women (this includes young girls as well).
From Women’s Suffrage to equal pay, the rights of all women, regardless of race/ethnicity, social status, or age, have been a topic of concern. Breast cancer awareness, as unpleasant as this may sound, is an area that pretty much belongs to women only and has been used to improve the conditions of this group. However, Gondusky et al. (2015) have previously asserted that 2,350 new cases of breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men during the year 2015. About 2,600 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, which is an increase. So then, should we care? Some media outlets could at least bring attention to this issue, especially since 2,600 people are at risk (you do realize that’s more than the size of your average high school, right?).
As we conclude today’s ramblings, it should be noted that media attention on any health issue is extraordinary. Without it, many would be unaware of modifiable lifestyle behaviors that could lead to a prolonged, enjoyable life. Nevertheless, something should be said about the selectivity of media outlets. Could it be that less threatening health issues, both economically and socially, have a better chance at receiving national coverage? Also, given that the U.S. prides itself on capitalism, should we chastise food agencies looking to profit from media attention despite having negative health consequences for vulnerable communities? Lastly, should media focus on lesser known issues such as men and breast cancer? These questions can lead to various debates. But one thing is for certain; people are suffering, and that’s something we should care about.
**Let us know what you thought about today’s blog post. Do you have any ideas? How important is the media in bringing awareness to health issues? Please share your thoughts with us!
Barber, C. (2014). Men’s health series 4: men and breast cancer. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants, 8(10).
Gondusky, C. J., Kim, M. J., Kalantari, B. N., Khalkhali, I., & Dauphine, C. E. (2015). Examining the Role of Screening Mammography in Men at Moderate Risk for Breast Cancer: Two Illustrative Cases. The breast journal, 21(3), 316-317.
Marrero, S. L., Bloom, D. E., & Adashi, E. Y. (2012). Noncommunicable diseases: a global health crisis in a new world order. JAMA, 307(19), 2037-2038.
- Updated: November 30, 2016