Breast Cancer and Politics

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

APRIL 03, 2018

  I truly do know that this is supposed to be an apolitical blog, and I try hard to keep it this way. This particular bit of news, however, is so disturbing that I can't contain myself. My suspicion is that all who read these words have a shared interest in learning about cancer, in supporting cancer research, in doing everything possible to improve the lives of all of who are living with this diagnosis.How we decide to vote in any particular election is less relevant, although it turns out that it matters.

  This is an article from Medpage Today about the removal of breast cancer information from the HHS (Health and Human Services) website. I have also thought that one role of government agencies is to help keep us informed, to share facts, to steer clear of unsubstantiated opinions and political pressure. The response from HHS is that these materials were rarely used and needed to be reviewed. Here is what the article reports: "While content about mammogram breast cancer screening remains, informational pages and fact sheets about the disease, including symptoms, treatment, risk factors, and public no- or low-cost cancer screening programs, have been entirely removed and are no longer found elsewhere on the OWH [Office of Women's Health]," according to a Sunlight Foundation report.

  Now, I honestly don't know what the politics are or why anyone would object to this kind of information being easily available online. The report states that other health information specially directed at lesbian, bisexual, or trans women has been removed from other places in the HHS website. If this is true, we should all be outraged! Again, I am not trying to persuade anyone to feel one way or another about sexual preferences, but it is terrifying to consider the possibility that some of us are being denied potentially life-saving information and that any distinction is being made in the medical reports or care available to different women.

  Here is the start of the report and a link to read more:

HHS Removes Breast Cancer Info from Website

Watchdog group cries foul; HHS claims info is being revamped
  • by  Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today

WASHINGTON -- Guidance on breast cancer disappeared from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website without warning, according to a government watchdog group, but HHS contends the pages were removed because of a lack of use.

"While content about mammogram breast cancer screening remains, informational pages and fact sheets about the disease, including symptoms, treatment, risk factors, and public no- or low-cost cancer screening programs, have been entirely removed and are no longer found elsewhere on the OWH [Office of Women's Health]," according to a Sunlight Foundation report.

An HHS spokesperson told ThinkProgress, "The pages were removed on December 6, 2017, because content was not mobile-friendly and very rarely used. Before we update any of the information ... we engage in a comprehensive audit and use analysis process that includes reviewing other federal consumer health websites to ensure we are not duplicating efforts or presenting redundant information."

This isn't the first time content has been removed from the HHS site without notice or explanation. In an earlier report, the Sunlight Foundation noted that content related to health issues of lesbian and bisexual women had been removed.

Read more: https://www.medpagetoday.com/publichealthpolicy/healthpolicy/72115