It’s good to be informed. As physical therapists, our role is to educate ourselves then pass on the information to our patients. I’ve come across many women, patients, and co-workers who recognize the dangers of breast cancer and the necessity of research to cure it.
Clearly, breast cancer is serious business and the stats are grim. The lifetime prevalence of 1 in 8 and number of deaths of 40,000 per year.
But consider this, lung cancer claims 70,000 women a year which is more than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. Of those diagnosed with lung cancer, only 1 in 8 survives. The public consciousness seems misinformed on this.
Heart disease is another poorly understood killer. Every year, heart disease claims the lives of 500,000 women. That’s 1000% more deaths than breast cancer. People seem to think breast cancer is the biggest monster out there gobbling up women’s lives while the real boogey man disease lives in virtual anonymity.
Why does this happen? Why would such a big health problem get such short shrift? Part of the problem is the lack of fulfillment on our role as a physical therapist. Another concern is the stereotype that only men get heart attacks. The fact is heart disease doesn’t dabble in gender politics. Whether you’re from Venus or Mars, the odds are pretty even.
If you’re a woman, your sirens should be ringing, particularly if you have a family history. Do you like to wash down your corn-fed Angus cuts with a keg of beer and exercise by walking from the couch to the kitchen during commercial breaks? If this describes you or your patients, beware, but don’t despair.
Giving up leads to paralysis and paralysis doesn’t help. What helps is educating patients and passing on the information in your physical therapy practice. Keep in mind that the step after information is informed action. Unlike breast cancer which is largely genetic and difficult to prevent, heart disease responds to the following life-saving changes:
- Smoking cessation
- A well-balanced diet, low in saturated and trans fat
- Regular physical therapy exercise
- Weight loss
- Stress reduction
- Social support
- Decreased alcohol consumption
Those who campaign against breast cancer do a wonderful job of raising awareness about a terrible disease. Our role as a physical therapist is to applaud these efforts and replicate them with heart disease, spreading the word the way rumors spread in the girl’s middle school bathrooms across America. First whispered conspiratorially, the message gets passed on via three very simple words: “Pass it on!”
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