China and Breast Cancer: A Need for Education and Awareness Raising

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China has a population of over 1.3 billion people and is the world’s largest and most populated country. When you walk into any store in the United States, you can pick up most any item and you will find it is made in China. For the country to be so populous and so industrial, you would think the mindset related to breast cancer would be just as advanced. Originally I was going to research China and Japan. What I discovered about China has caused me to focus on this country.

As I researched breast cancer projects in China, I discovered an underlying shame held by women in China feel who are diagnosed with breast cancer. One study by the University of Hong Kong studied 423 women who had recently found lumps or were having breast symptoms of pain or other issues. Thirty-one percent of these women (132) ages 21 and older went on to be diagnosed with breast cancer. All of these women had delayed sharing the information of their concerns with their partners or a friend due to shame or embarrassment. In Hong Kong it is reported that 2,700 women each year are diagnosed with breast cancer and 500 of these women die. That is a high percentage of women dying with this disease and the reason was related to delay in seeking medical attention.

According to several articles, between 170,000 – 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in China each year. There is a push from leading hospitals and health facilities to promote education in breast cancer awareness. Chinese women incorporating western culture of eating high fat diets and increasing alcohol intake, along with the pollution in China are some factors for the rise in breast cancer in this country.

The culture comes into play with the shame women feel about having breast cancer. One 21 year old woman who developed breast cancer lost her boyfriend when he found out she had cancer. She then started a blog to bring awareness to this disease and to bring down walls of shame associated with the diagnosis. There are three high profile Chinese women who brought attention to breast awareness by doing tasteful photo shoots in the nude (major private areas nude, but not totally exposed) in an attempt to show women they have nothing to be ashamed of by coming forth with their diagnoses.

I am partnering with a woman here in the United States who has a popular breast cancer blog to develop educational tools for women in China to use during their cancer journey. This woman has a sister cancer awareness site she has partnered with in China, and the need for positive affirmation for the women is an overwhelming task. We will be developing literature which will be translated for these very precious women.

Joyce Harrell, RN, OCN is an Oncology Registered Nurse and Wellness Coach. Joyce provides education and workshops on a variety of subjects relating to the health and wellness of cancer patients and their families, as well as the general public. Joyce practices integrative care, which is adding (not replacing) integrative therapies to conventional medicine.

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.


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