Waves of pink product messaging roll toward women year round now, then hit us with tsunami force in October. Everywhere we turn there are pink reminders to be “aware” of breast cancer, often telling us we can “save a life” or “find a cure” by buying something.
The legitimate and sincere efforts to help those affected by this disease are too often drowned out by the louder and better funded commercial bandwagon that has seized this cancer. Enough with the pink crap, where’s the focus on women’s health?
Don’t get me wrong. I would never want to go back to the days when breast cancer was a hidden disease no one talked about.
Too many women suffered in silence or died because their disease wasn’t detected or treated in time because they were afraid to seek help.
I truly appreciate the women (and men!) who are passionate about educating others. Many of those who have lived through breast cancer, or who love someone who had breast cancer, are standing up and demanding that the rest of us notice the disease and help others.
There are some great organizations, large and small, which go beyond just awareness and into action – supporting those facing this cancer, supporting researchers who are advancing treatments and helping meet other needs.
My issue is with those who are in it just for the money and see breast cancer “awareness” as a way to get into women’s minds and wallets.
The “side effect” of these commercial actions is they are scaring girls and young women into thinking their number one health concern is breast cancer. This does little to put focus on taking care of ourselves as whole human beings.
The cold hard facts show that heart disease is the number one killer of women, followed by cancer and stroke.
The cancer that kills most women is lung cancer, followed by breast cancer and colorectal cancer. Those three cancers are also the most common in women.
One of the most significant areas of health concern, one we rarely hear about, is chronic disease, even though it accounts for the majority of health spending in the US and impacts women’s daily life and quality of life.
For women of reproductive age, ages 15–44, some of the most common chronic diseases are depression, hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. Chronic diseases can be on-going such as diabetes or they can be reoccurring, such as with depression.
I challenge you to take ownership of your own overall health. Don’t put your health decisions in the hands of other people who want you to believe that all you need to do is buy certain products or have certain tests to have a long, healthy life.
Think about what you can do to manage your entire body’s health, including that of your breasts, and become an empowered woman.
For me, an empowered woman is a woman who is willing to ask questions and not take no for an answer. It's a woman who owns her body and her health, and trusts her own intuition and her gut.
I am an empowered woman when I keep doing what I do every day by helping women lead healthier and happier lives, and giving women access to be an empowered woman themselves through the resources on EmpowHER.
When you’re asked to “think pink”, take a deeper dive. Think about what you can do to become an empowered woman.
Make Good Lifestyle Choices:
Does your lifestyle support good health? Do you maintain a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet? Do you get regular physical exercise? If you smoke, are you prepared to stop for the sake of your health?
Do you lie to your doctors? Whether you leave out small details, or forget to mention the herbal supplements you are taking, or deliberately misstate the number of alcoholic drinks you have in a week, you are undercutting your doctor’s ability to take the best care of you.
So own up to whatever is going on. If you smoke, say so. Your doctor may not approve, but he or she will appreciate your honesty.
Build Strong Medical Provider Relationships:
Do you avoid going to the doctor? Regular checkups and preventive screenings help you maintain your health.
Know your family health history and health risks. Know the recommendations for your age group. Include screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol along with other annual tests and look out for your long-term health.
Go Beyond Awareness and Into Action:
Just knowing that you are at risk for a health problem doesn’t help you. It takes action – doing research, gaining knowledge, asking questions, seeking support and following through as needed.
As women we are more apt to do this for other family members than for ourselves. It’s time to stop that, and make sure we look out for our own health.
Now I want to hear from YOU. What makes you an empowered woman?
Take a photo like mine saying why you are empowered and email it to [email protected] You may be featured in my next newsletter and on EmpowHER.com. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Leading Cause of Death, Women, United States, Centers for Disease Control, Retrieved 9/30/14.
Cancer Among Women, United States, Centers for Disease Control, Retrieved 9/30/14.
Preventing and Managing Chronic Disease to Improve the Health of Women and Infants, Centers for Disease Control, Retrieved 9/30/14.
Reviewed October 6, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Add a Comment2 Comments
I am a medical anthropologist breast cancer researcher and co-author of Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. The money behind this disease is also suppressing vital information about the bra-cancer link. Constriction from tight bras worn daily is the leading cause of breast cancer, as well as of breast cysts and pain. The bra is like the constrictive corset which disabled and killed women for centuries. And just as women were brainwashed into believing they needed a corset to be acceptable to others, they now believe they need a bra. Fortunately, many women are getting the message and eliminating bras from their wardrobe, and discovering improved breast health, tone, and comfort. Bottom line: This disease is embedded in our culture, and now has multi-billion dollar industries invested in it continuing. Try joining the bra-free revolution, and discover on your own body how much healthier it feels.October 23, 2014 - 4:52pm
Thank you, Michelle, for speaking out on this critical topic!
I am among the many breast cancer survivors who dreads the storm of bad messaging that women get about breast cancer year round. And the parade of pink products, including many that have carcinogens that actually increase one's risk for breast cancer, is just insane.
More importantly, the vital information that we need to protect our health is often not even provided, even to breast cancer survivors. While things are improving, and there is more and more focus on making patients aware of the risk of secondary cancers from the treatments used for initial cancers, we have a very long way to go, and getting there will take recognizing the need to focus on our entire bodies, not just part of them.
As a woman who now lives with a chronic leukemia, which is in my boobs and every other part of my body too, I applaud your call for change!
PatOctober 8, 2014 - 6:48pm