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[Op-Ed] Pink Ribbon

Posted October. 09, 2009 07:41,   


Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O`Connor, feminist Gloria Steinem, former U.S. First Lady Betty Ford, environmentalist Rachel Carson, 1968 Olympic figure skating champion Peggy Fleming, and actress Cynthia Nixon all share one thing in common: breast cancer. In the popular U.S. drama “Sex and City,” Samantha, a single woman, develops breast cancer. Ironically, Nixon, who played lawyer Miranda in the show, was diagnosed with the disease.

Though stomach cancer is the most common form of cancer in Korea, breast cancer is most common among Korean women. In 2006, 46.8 of every 100,000 Korean women developed breast cancer, up almost three times from 1990s. The rise in breast cancer is attributed to the rising popularity of the Western diet, obesity, a decline in breastfeeding, early menstruation and late menopause. Unlike in other countries, breast cancer in Korea is prevalent among women in their 20s and 30s. Young women dread the disease because it requires breast removal and results in death in the worst-case scenario.

As with other cancer types, early detection is crucial in fighting breast cancer. Early detection is not easy because symptoms do not arise in the early stage, but if detected early, the disease can be cured by eliminating cancerous cells without harming breasts. Though the cancer can be discovered through a sonogram and X-rays, self-examination is most effective. Korean women care more about their looks than their health. So much so that a joke has it that masseuses at public bathhouses are the ones to detect breast cancer in Korea, whereas it is husbands and boyfriends who do so in other countries.

To mark Breast Cancer Month, the Pink Ribbon Campaign was launched to raise public awareness of the importance of early detection of breast cancer. The campaign originated from a New York woman in 1914 who appeared in public covering her breasts with two sheets of pink silk handkerchiefs instead of a corset. For women, breast cancer is an uninvited guest. Women with a family history of the disease should be most careful. While women must check their breasts regularly, their husbands should also do their part for early detection.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)