This essay is dedicated to an overview of problems women face when diagnosed with breast cancer. We will attempt to highlight flaws in the modern US health care system and propose possible solutions.
Breast cancer is a disease characterized by the growth of abnormal cells in a breast tissue and if not treated, may result in death. According to the research of the National Cancer Institute, this is the second most widespread type cancer in women, whereas the first most widespread disease is skin cancer (Patel, par. 1). In the United States, more than 200,000 women get breast cancer, and more than 40,000 women die from the disease each year (“Breast Cancer”, par. 3). Women of age between 40 and 50 years have the highest rate of having diagnosed with breast cancer. Before and after this period, risk rates are lower, but, in general, all women are exposed to this risk throughout their lives.
What is being done about breast cancer?
Nowadays a preference is given to mammography as the primary tool for cancer treatment. The rate of mammography use increased greatly in the 1990s from 24% in 1989 to 75% in 1997 (Patel “Women Taking Control” par. 2). A large number of women in the US start having mammograms in their forties. However, recent studies have shown that mammography is not effective a tool as it seemed before. Mammography has not proven to be useful in distinguishing benign formations from cancer cells, and whether cancer takes its progressive or non-progressive form.
According to the study of breast cancer in Norway, researchers estimated that between 15% and 25% of breast cancer cases tend to be overdiagnosed (Dwyer par 7). Moreover, no decrease in the number of late-stage breast cancers was observed among women who did not prefer early screening. Among about 8000 women diagnosed with cancer, 2000 of them were falsely diagnosed. Consequently, six out of ten women have can be subject to cancer treatment without any benefit (Dwyer par. 8).
Breast cancer treatment includes dangerous and invasive procedures such as biopsy, surgery, chemotherapies, hormone therapies and radiation exposure. This means that falsely prescribed cancer treatment will only be detrimental to the health of otherwise healthy women.
Although mammography remains the most widespread means of cancer prevention, its flaws become apparent. A need for new and more efficient diagnostic means arises, such as DNA analysis. It is widely believed that DNA analysis will allow finding out whether an individual is predisposed to breast cancer. Having a particular set of genes allows women to have breast cancer treated without resorting to chemotherapy (“Women Taking Control: Personalizing Medical Decisions” par. 7). Researchers also found that there are genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 that influence a woman’s predisposition to breast cancer.
Women poverty and health
Another problem is that it is getting increasingly difficult for women to pay for the health care services. It is very hard for women to pay for their medical insurance. The main reason for this, inequality in wages between women and men, persists, despite the fact that women will soon begin to be the majority of the US workforce. At the same time, employers in industries, where female workers are prevalent, usually do not provide coverage for health care services. What is even worse is that these issues fuel each other. Poor health hinders the employment prospects; health care is unavailable, when an individual is unemployed. Surely, this is related to mortality rates from breast cancer. Women from poor neighborhoods are less likely to have a proper prevention measures or treatment.
Often in families, women rely on their husbands to insure them as well, but now it is almost impossible because of the flaws in Affordable Care Act, known as “The Family Glitch” (“If Obamacare Is Here To Stay, It’s Going To Need Some Fixing. Here Are 5 Ways How” par. 3.)
With current healthcare regulations provided by ACA, medical insurance for an individual is cheap, but choosing to insure family members will triple the insurance price.
The solution lies for the government in finding problem spots in the medical care system (such as the Family Glitch) and modification of existing healthcare to eliminate them. Some organizations provide mammograms free of charge to women without insurance.
Cancer treatment for black women
Black women are inclined to have breast cancer at an earlier age and in more acute forms. The probability of developing the most aggressive form of breast cancer (triple negative breast cancer) is higher among black women. It is known that black women have denser breast, which makes tumor detection measures less effective. This means that mammography results are harder to interpret, since a formation can be hidden behind the dense mass.
Studies have also shown (“Breast Cancer.” par. 2) that having learned about cancer symptoms, black women tend to start their treatments later than their white counterparts (only 69% compared to 83% of white women).
The study has also proven that black women are usually less inclined to get any treatment at all. This results in nine additional nine deaths per 100 cancers for black women.
The reason for this may be racial disparities in American society that lead to lower wages, as well as differences in education and living standards. Such disparities lead to additional stress that, in turn, leads to sickness. It is reported that the death rates for other diseases are also significantly higher among African Americans. It should be noted, however, that aforementioned issues affect any racial minorities, not only the black population.
Women with disabilities
CDC reports that getting regular mammographies is less common among women with disabilities (“Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer Screening” par. 1). This signifies that another improvement needs to be made in the US healthcare system. More hospitals should be adapted to individual needs.
Among other issues, we may highlight insufficient health literacy, or being unsure whether one needs or can be diagnosed.
We propose the following solutions to the problems mentioned before:
- New healthcare specialists should be trained to provide guidance to women and patients with special needs. Strategies for doctor-patient communication should be enhanced.
- Access to health care services should be improved for women from lower classes (Young par.3).
- Clinical care, accessibility and awareness of breast cancer and free screenings for women with disabilities should be enhanced.
- Awareness of high cancer risk rates should be raised among black women. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, e.g. development and distribution of educational materials.
- An alternative technique needs to be found to define whether malformations in women’s breasts are benign or cancerous.
- An emphasis should be put on the development of state-of-the-art gene-oriented cancer prevention measures.
- Further reforms within the framework of existing healthcare system have to be performed.
Last, but not least, a great deal of attention should be paid to the promotion of healthy lifestyle among American citizens, since such factors as physical inactivity, obesity, and incorrect eating habits also influence the probability of being diagnosed with cancer.
“Breast Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012. Web.
Dwyer, M. “Routine Mammograms May Result in Significant Overdiagnosis of Invasive Breast Cancer.” News. Harvard School of Public Health. Web. 2015.
Patel, Heena. “Keeping Abreast of Trends in Mammography Technology | Society for Women’s Health Research.” Society for Womens Health Research. 2014. Web.
“Women Taking Control: Personalizing Medical Decisions | Society for Women’s Health Research.” Society for Womens Health Research. 2014. Web.
“Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer Screening.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014. Web.
Young, Jeffrey. “If Obamacare Is Here To Stay, It’s Going To Need Some Fixing. Here Are 5 Ways How.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 2015.