The responses over on Crooked Timber to my recent post about Breast Cancer Awareness Month were interesting. One commenter suggested that instead of addressing specific issues or charities, it would be better to “focus our energy on political action for good national health insurance“. I’ve seen this argument made before, specifically about breast cancer awareness. While you certainly won’t get any arguments from me against better health insurance (I hate hate hate hate the system in the US and I’m among the privileged who at least has health insurance), I’m not convinced that that’s the only issue at hand when it comes to achieving adequate levels of awareness and preventive care.
First, should we give up on incremental action in other realms until the overall health care system gets figured out? Second, even if we do achieve major gains on that front, will that really take care of all associated concerns? Unlikely. One way to approach this is to see whether people in countries that have good universal health care are all educated about various illnesses and preventive measures. The answer is likely no, which suggests that there is room for awareness campaigns.
Perhaps people are sick of all the pink. To be sure, I get skeptical about some companies’ approaches. But bad marketing on behalf of some doesn’t mean that there aren’t real issues to consider. Nor is it simply a women’s issue as men have partners, mothers, sisters, daughters and friends who’ll be affected. In fact, having watched some of these situations play out, the person fighting cancer is often stronger than those surrounding her so the emotional toll something like this can take on people is significant in and of itself.
Of course, it’s not enough to know that you should be getting a mammogram if you simply can’t afford it or if it’s too complicated to figure out where/how to get one. But there are charities that address those particular disparities as well. Should we ignore those efforts as we wait for universal health care to kick in? (And again, any guarantees that will address the necessary awareness associated with early detection?)
I was going to propose a trade. You donate some money or effort to the cause and I give you something in return. I started thinking about it too late though so I’ll table that for another time. Nonetheless, here are some pointers to charities that work to prevent and cure breast cancer. Alternatively, if you have no money to give or you don’t believe that’s a good use of resources, take some relevant action. Ask a loved one if she’s gotten a mammogram recently (assuming she’s of relevant age), read up on issues, encourage others to do so as well (including what it is that people need to look out for in terms of detection). A friend of mine was diagnosed when her partner noticed a change in her breasts so it’s important for men to be aware as well. Even among women who have adequate health insurance and are well aware that they should be getting regular testing, many don’t. Is it so bad to want to do something about that?