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March 27, 2008

Beyond Abortion and Breast Cancer: Women's Health

When it comes to women's health activism people think of two things: Reproductive Rights and Breast Cancer. (Maybe now they also think of cervical cancer, thanks to all the Gardasil hype). However, those are not really the biggest issues for women when it actually comes to their health. Obviously reproductive rights are really important (otherwise we wouldn't be talking about them constantly) and breast cancer is a definitely a huge deal. But they’re not the only health issues that women should be concerned about…

Some U.S. "Women's Health" Facts:

  • The number one cause of death in women is Heart Disease.
  • Heart Disease is also the number one cause of death in men, however more women die of heart Disease than men each year.
  • Heart Disease is responsible for more deaths in women than all forms of Cancer combined.
  • The second most common cause of death in women is Cancer.
  • The most common cause of Cancer-death in women is Lung Cancer.
  • More people die of Lung Cancer every year than from Breast, Colon and Prostate cancers combined.
  • Breast Cancer is the second leading cause of Cancer-death in women.
  • The third leading cause of Cancer-death in women is Colorectal Cancer.

Female-centric conditions such as Breast Cancer (although men can get it), Cervical Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, etc. should be given special attention because they are unique to women and therefore need to be considered "women's issues". (Otherwise they might be ignored, under-funded, under-researched, etc.) However we also need to pay close attention to the conditions that women are actually suffering from the most.

Pretty much every knows that the pink ribbon is for Breast Cancer Awareness, but we didn’t know what color ribbon represented Lung Cancer. We did a little Internet “research” and found that there is still some debate over which color actually indicates Lung Cancer Awareness… we found ribbons in gray, pearl and even clear (because it is the “invisible disease” they say. I don’t know who they are, but that’s what they say).


In our search we found this pink and green Lung Cancer ribbon from the Lung Cancer Foundation’s LungBlog and frankly, we think it’s both funny and sad… The slogan “lung cancer matters too!” should never have to exist. We should all know that Lung Cancer matters… it’s the number one Cancer in both men and women. And did you know that March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month? Yeah, we bet you didn’t. I’m not suggesting that we should stop raising funds and/or awareness for Breast Cancer or other female health issues, just that we shouldn’t ignore everything else, like AIDS/HIV, Stroke, Diabetes, etc.

For more information on “Women’s Health”:

The number thing associated with poor health is poverty (because poverty usually goes hand-in-hand with poor diet, poor living conditions, poor working conditions, lack of health education, lack of health care/insurance).

Of the 37 million people living below the poverty line in the U.S. in 2006, 21 million were women. And even when the nation’s poverty rate actually declined (2006 was the first time this decade), the number of American without health insurance rose to record numbers.


According to one national survey (2005), one in six privately insured women postponed or went without needed medical care because she could not afford it. Women are also twice as likely as men to be insured as a “dependent” on a spouse’s plan (meaning she risks losing coverage if she divorces or is widowed). More than 17 million women (nearly 1 in 5) age 18 to 64 are uninsured in the U.S. Most of these women are make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough money to actually buy their own health insurance and are not eligible for employee coverage.


Among workers, women are less likely than men to be eligible for and participate in their employer’s health plan, in part because women are more likely to work part-time and have lower incomes than men. Also, women’s health care often costs more than men’s, because women need many routine medical exams and preventative health care (such as mammograms and pap tests) and other female-central costs such as birth control or pregnancy-related services.


Women’s Health Activists – like the National Women’s Health Network (founded in 1975) – work to give women a great voice within the healthcare system:

The National Women’s Health Network improves the health of all women by developing and promoting a critical analysis of health issues in order to affect policy and support consumer decision-making. The Network aspires to a health care system that is guided by social justice and reflects the needs of diverse women.

For information on Women’s Health Activism (Past and Present):

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