The Femo: Pink October

Breast Cancer awareness pink ribbon

by Sarah Rubin

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 31 days dedicated to increasing breast health education and awareness, celebrating life and the success of survivors, and commemorating women whose lives have been taken by breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society’s 2012 statistics, over 226,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed each year in the United States, causing around 40,000 deaths. As such, breast cancer is the leading cause of death for American women ages 40–55 and deeply affects thousands of women and their families.

As we take this month to spread awareness and education of this disease, we should also take a moment to reflect on the state of women’s health and access to affordable health care services in the United States. While obvious to some, it is important to recognize that “women’s health issues” is not a category manufactured by advocates to mask controversial words such as “abortion” and “contraception,” but actually encompasses a range of women’s health components, including breast cancer services and treatment.

Preventative health care services and cancer screenings are undeniably medical issues, not political ones. Yet these components of women’s health care are at risk of becoming less accessible and affordable for American women under the Romney administration.

According to the American Cancer Society, early detection of breast cancer through regular breast exams and screenings is the best way to lower risk of death from breast cancer, as earlier stages of cancer can be treated more easily. Screenings can be provided by primary care physicians, but are also provided at an affordable cost by Planned Parenthoods across the U.S.

Because 76 percent of American women under the poverty line rely on Planned Parenthood for primary care services, clinics around the country provide life-saving breast cancer screenings, exams, and referrals for mammograms to their patients. In 2010 alone, Planned Parenthood provided 1,596,741 services related to cancer screening and prevention, comprising 14.5 percent of their total health care services that year.

When Mitt Romney repeatedly vows to de-fund Planned Parenthood, he is not only pledging to gut crucial funding for family planning services, but also plans to deny millions of women the primary care and preventative services they rely on. Without Planned Parenthood, women whose lives depend on access to affordable breast cancer exams and screenings may not find the early detection services they need for effective treatment. Romney’s convenient flip-flop to become a decidedly “pro-life candidate” thus has deep and dire consequences for affordable access to women’s health care.

October is a month dedicated to breast cancer awareness and education, as well as the stories of the women that have endured it. But it should also be a month of awareness and education about those candidates who will continue to defend women’s access to life-saving health care services and those who will weaken it. After all, October is just one short month before November.


graphic by MesserWoland, based on the work of Niki K: