The Post's account of the May 16 hearing by the subcommittee on health and long-term care exemplifies how women's health issues are trivialized in the media. This hearing called together a wide range of individuals who are involved in efforts to bring an end to breast cancer. Both private and public-sector responses to breast cancer were explored, and all agreed that breast cancer funding to pursue new research and clinical trials must be increased.
Breast cancer will strike an estimated 150,000 women in the United States this year. And it is estimated that more than 44,000 sisters, mothers, wives, daughters and granddaughters will die of breast cancer. Yet this year only 26 percent of the National Cancer Institute's breast cancer grant requests have been approved because of lack of funds.
For the fiscal year 1989, $77 million was budgeted for breast cancer research at the National Cancer Institute. Compare this figure with the $1.6 billion Congress allocated to fund AIDS research and an added $700 million approved this year. We applaud this effort by Congress but urge Congress not to forget that up until recently more women died of breast cancer each year than the total number of persons who had succumbed to AIDS.
Given the fact that so little money goes toward breast cancer research, it is a wonder that more women do not protest the lack of funding just as the AIDS activists protested May 21 for additional AIDS research. Part of the reason women are not marching may be that women's health issues receive only scant media attention.
When The Post reported on the breast cancer research hearing, it placed the account in its Style section in the "Personalities" column. By contrast, the AIDS protest at NIH not only received a full story but made the front page. One hundred fifty thousand women and their families deserve a better account of women's health issues than a trivial account consisting of two paragraphs under the gossip column.
HEATHER D. BOONSTRA Intern, National Women's Health Network Washington