Women interact with cancer in complex ways, as healthy individuals participating in cancer prevention, as patients, as health professionals, researchers, policymakers, and as unpaid caregivers. In all these domains, women often are subject to overlapping forms of discrimination, such as due to age, race, ethnicity and socio-economic status, that render them structurally marginalised. These myriad factors can restrict a woman’s rights and opportunities to avoid cancer risks, are a barrier to diagnosis and quality cancer care, maintain an unpaid caregiver workforce that is predominantly female, and hinder women’s professional advancement.
The Lancet Commission on women, power and cancer was created to address urgent questions at the intersection of social inequality, cancer risk, and outcomes, and the status of women in society.
It is calling for a new feminist agenda for cancer care to eliminate gender inequality.
“The impact of a patriarchal society on women’s experiences of cancer has gone largely unrecognised,” said Dr Ophira Ginsburg, a senior adviser for clinical research at the National Cancer Institute’s Centre for Global Health and a co-chair of the commission.
“Globally, women’s health is often focused on reproductive and maternal health, aligned with narrow anti-feminist definitions of women’s value and roles in society, while cancer remains wholly underrepresented.
“Our commission highlights that gender inequalities significantly impact women’s experiences with cancer. To address this, we need cancer to be seen as a priority issue in women’s health, and call for the immediate introduction of a feminist approach to cancer.”