In a 2005 study by Women's Health Research, over 1000 women were asked - which disease they feared the most. I was rather surprised they found the fear of Breast Cancer more than doubled Heart Disease. While Breast Cancer caused approximately 3% of the US deaths in 2005, over 22 percent have the most fear for the disease. On the other hand, heart disease accounts for 28.6 percent of diseases and only 9.7 percent consider their top fear!! I know the US society has placed a higher emphasis of breasts over heart, but I can't say I expected this.
|Fear Rank||Disease||Women's Most Feared Diseases||Cause of Death in Women||Difference|
So what are the possible explanations for this?
-While the mortality of breast cancer is low, there is a significant amount of women living and bravely battling the disease. On the other hand, the same can be said about heart disease.
Feeling of Control
-While risk factors such as diet, obesity, and hormones have been established, the cause for breast cancer can still be considered quite a mystery. So most women likely believe that she could develop BC and don't have the power to control it. The risk factors for heart disease - (diet, physical activity, smoking) are a bit more established, so women's feeling of control may be stronger for CHD.
-Another explanation is that breast cancer has had stronger activists, fundraisers, and lobbyists that push the disease into the mainstream. The general wisdom may be that since Breast Cancer is getting the same or more ad time than Heart Disease - women's risk of death are great for BC.
Age of Disease
Women may believe that they are more likely to get Breast Cancer at a younger age than Heart Disease. According to SEER the median age of dianosis is 61, while the median age of death is 69. For heart disease the average age of a first heart attack is around 70 years old (though the disease can be caught at a much earlier stage).
Women still believe it's a male disease
The stereotypical person with heart disease (at least in my mind) is an overweight, red faced guy in a suit. Women only comprise of about 25 percent of heart studies, and things like this need to change.
Heart disease kills about 8 times the women than Breast Cancer. The medical community needs to do a better job about expressing this risk. Maybe when people go to their primary doc, they should be asked this "what disease do you fear the most" question. Then the education can begin. Another idea is instead of counseling by doctor, people should have a "medical counclier" who discuss peoples risk of disease and what they can do for prevention. According to the Women's Heart fact sheet only 2 percent of the NIH budget is spent on prevention, and that is just flat out wrong .
2005 data from:
Women's Health Research
Women's Heart Fact Sheet