Health issues that affect women across the globe


Staying healthy is essential for a woman's productivity and ability to give back. Emphasized here are breast cancer issues: introductory resources and personal accounts are included to educate and create awareness about this disease. Also highlighted here are health issues that affect women across the globe. This includes heart disease, which is the number one killer of women in the U.S., and maternal health issues, which kills nearly 800 women daily (especially in the developing world) and impacts a woman's career in the developed world.

I began a journey 14 years ago with a group of law enforcement colleagues to take a stand on the need to find a cure for a disease which impacts generations of families.  We named our team "Shields For The Cure" and vowed to individually or collectively contribute to the effort as long as we were physically able or until a cure is found.  The composition of the team has changed over the years with moves, with illness and life changes, but the passion and commitment has never wavered and never will.  Contribute (at www.the3day.org, to team Shields For The Cure) to help change the world. - Dr. Kathleen Kiernan

Introduction to Breast Cancer:

Cancer, as a whole disease, is the second greatest killer of women. In the U.S. Breast cancer is the most lethal of all. Today, 1 in 8, or 12% of women in the United States will develop breast cancer. As a woman ages, her risk for developing breast cancer increases. Below are facts and resources to educate and assist.


  • This Medical News Today article provides an overview to breast cancer that includes helpful diagrams, symptom identification, and other information.

Specialized Resources:

  • The Breast Cancer Fund's Clear Science section provides a thorough breakdown of the many environmental exposures linked to breast cancer
  • This study compare what science has concluded about risk factors for breast cancer to women's perceptions of these risks. The study surveyed African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian women and often found differences in these groups' perceptions.
  • Many breast cancer survivors have created products exclusively for other women who had breast cancer. 
    • AnaOno Intimates creates bras and lingerie for women who have had masectomies due to breast cancer. 
    • Alloro Collection creates clothing that addresses the concerns of women who have had breast cancer treatment, such as front pain, side sensitivity, and reduced arm range of motion.
    • CureDiva offers products that are categorized by treatment type.
  • The Metaplastic Breast Cancer Foundation provides support and information for women with this rare type of breast cancer. In metaplastic breast cancer, cells in the breast change into another cell type. It is a triple-negative breast cancer, making it difficult to treat.

Other Resources:

Giving the Struggle a Face

Among the greatest treasures one can possess in life are health and happiness. Disease is an insidious force which can steal both away. Dedicated research and a relentless spirit of refusing to sound retreat can and does make a difference. Take a stand, get involved, and follow the journey of Angi who has always been a survivor-even before her diagnosis.

Angi's Place

Meet Angi English. Since October 1, 2015,  Angi has been the Division Chief of Strategic Programs and Senior Advisor for the Texas Office of Risk Management. She oversees all operations of the division's four departments, which include Risk Management, Workers' Compensation, Communications & Development, and Document Processing. As Senior Advisor, she advises on multidisciplinary strategies for continuous improvement in agency products and services, and mission-critical initiatives. 

On September 11, 2015, Angi found out that she had breast cancer. The news came at a rather inconvenient time, since Angi was transitioning into her new position as Division Chief. However, Angi also saw opportunity in her predicament. She quickly educated herself on breast cancer, reached out to others to find support, and shared her knowledge with her community to spread awareness and information about breast cancer. 

Angi is not alone in her fight, and neither is any woman who is struggling against breast cancer.  To fellow women with breast cancer, she sends her motto and rallying cry of NEVER SOUND RETREAT. 

Angi has created a Facebook support group, Team Angi, where she chronicles her breast cancer journey and collects relevant resources. She would be gladdened if her story provides strength and inspiration to others.

Read her biography to find out more about Angi. Also read about the beginning of her journey in My Personal Experience with Breast Cancer, which she had originally written for her coworkers and now shares with anyone who may benefit from seeing her story.

Angi is currently in her early stages of treatment. She has remained positive throughout and is thankful for the expert care from her medical team and the continuous support from her friends. Read about the continuation of her journey in her letter, My Personal Experience with Breast Cancer, Part 2

Heart disease:

Heart disease is now the number one killer of women in the U.S. and is quickly becoming an epidemic in developing countries. Currently, a greater number of women die from heart disease then men. The death rate of African-American women from heart disease is greater than white women. 

Previously, there was little awareness of women's heart disease; a number of women's symptoms are different and less obvious than men's. This contributes to the higher female death rate due to heart disease. Ongoing efforts to increase awareness of female heart disease by the Center for Disease Control include Million hearts, the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program, and Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation.


  • The Center for Disease Control provides fact sheets, warning signs, and risk factors for heart disease in women.  Risk factors include diabetes, obesity, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol use.  
  • WebMD provides a number of tools and resources including warning signs of cardiovascular disease and how to live better with Atrial Fibrillation.
  • The Cleveland Clinic provides information about heart and vascular disorders, including treatment, testing, and prevention and is the highest ranked heart program in the U.S.
  • The World Health Organization highlights the negative effects of  increasing rates of cardiovascular disease across the world and works to reduce incidence, morbidity, and mortality.

Female Heart Disease:

  • Go Red for Women was created by the American Heart Association to promote awareness and provide resources about female heart disease.

Other Resources:

Maternal Health:

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates each day 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. Encouragingly, between 1990 and 2010 global maternal mortality dropped by nearly 50%. Maternal health is hugely important for the overall wellbeing of mother and child. This section discusses  pre and post natal health and maternity leave for the developing and developed world.


  • The World Health Organization discusses progress toward achieving the fifth Millennium Development Goal: Improving Maternal Health. This discussion includes identifying where and why women die from childbirth, how their lives can be saved, and the WHO response in improving maternal health.
  • International Labor Organization report on paid maternity leave. More than 120 nations provide paid maternity leave, including most industrialized nations except Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
  • The United Nations' progress report of the fifth Millennium Development Goal of improving maternal health globally.
  • The Guardian's maternal health portal, highlighting stories on maternal mortality across the globe.
  • Engender Health highlights significant preganancy and childbirth-related complications as well as strategies to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries.



Stroke affects men and women differently and as the third highest killer of women in the U.S. it is important to recognize symptoms and react quickly when a woman is suffering from a stroke. Annually, strokes kill twice as many women as breast cancer. 


  • The Office on Women's Health provides a stroke fact sheet that answers common questions about stroke.
  • The National Stroke Association provides an overview of stroke symptoms and risk factors unique to women and what women can do to prevent stroke.
  • This infographic visually shows female-specific risk factors, ways to lower risk, and key statistics.
  • WebMD discusses why many women do not recognize their own stroke symptoms.


Mental Illness:

Although often overlooked, the mind is just as important as the body. When not self-reported, many mental illnesses can easily go undiagnosed: it is estimated that over half of mental illnesses go undetected by doctors. These undiagnosed illnesses hinder productivity and quality of life.

Women are two times more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression, panic disorders, and eating disorders. Many of the reasons for this gender difference are biological, including menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy. Social problems such as sexual assault, abuse, pressure to maintain a job while acting as the primary caregiver for children, and lowered social status are also major contributers.

General Mental Illness

  • Mental Health American provides an overview that defines mental illness, identifies common warning signs and symptoms of mental illnesses by age group, and offers crucial strategies for coping with mental illness.
  • WebMD describes the most common categories of mental illnesses while providing links to more resources.
  • These key facts demonstrate the high prevalency and wide impact of mental illness across the world.

Facts about Women and Mental Illness:

  • The World Health Institute discusses the gender differences in mental health occurences and gender disparities in mental health diagnosis and treatment.
  • Mayo Clinic and the Mental Health Foundation discusses the influence of social factors on the prevalency of mental illness in women. Women are also more likely to receive treatment for their mental illnesses, since women are more likely than men to seek help and social support for these problems.
  • Mental Health America provides statistics on depression in women. Depression occurs most frequently in women between 25 to 44 years of age, and about 12 million women experience clinical depression per year. 


Suicidal thougths are a common symptom of depression and other mental illnesses. Although more men die from suicide, women more commonly experience suicidal thoughts. The following are suicide prevention resources that should br used if you or someone you know is considering suicide.

  • If you are or know of a veteran in crisis, use the Veteran's Crisis Line to anonymously receive help, even if the crisis is not related to thoughts of suicide. Help is available through the website, by calling1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, or by texting to 838255.

Other Resources

Bone Health:

Women are at greater risk of bone health problems than men, due to having lower bone density, smaller frames, and more rapid loss of bone mass as they age. Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become more brittle and fragile due reduction in bone mass. The most commonly known causes of osteoporosis are gender, increased age (osteoporosis is more prevalent after menopause), and inactivity, but a host of other factors also contribute, including eating disorders and overtraining. Establishing good lifestyle habits early in life is crucial: getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D daily, engaging in healthy physical activity, particularly weight-bearing activity, and avoiding substance abuse are all steps to prevent or slow the onset of osteoporosis. 


  • Both WebMD and Mayo Clinic provide a general overview for osteoporosis, which affects about eight million women and two million men in the US.  
  • The Office on Women's Health has a fact sheet, or FAQ, on osteoporosis. 
  • Although inactivity is a major contributer to osteoporosis, excessive training is also a factor. It leads to menstrual dysfunction and low levels of estrogen, a hormone that promotes bone growth. This, coupled with high psychological stress and unhealthy diets, leads to higher risk for bone injuries and osteoporosis. Various sources discuss this effect. 

Other Resources:

Autoimmune diseases:

Autoimmune diseases, where the body's immune system attacks healthy tissues, is the third most common category of disease in the US after cancer and cardiovascular diseases. 50 million Americans have autoimmune disorders, and 75 percent of them are women. The reason for this gender disparity is still unclear. Autoimmune diseases themselves are not greatly understood: the effects of the diseases cross into many different medical specialities, and with over 80 types of these diseases and similar symptoms among many of them, diagnosis is difficult. In general, autoimmune diseases are incurable, but can be allievated through treatment.


  • A thorough overview can be found at MedlinePlus, by the US National Library of Medicine.
  • The Office on Women's Health has a fact sheet, or FAQ, on autoimmune disorders. 
  • Although the it is unclear why autoimmune diseases are more prevalent in women, several theories may help explain the difference. It is believed that because women have generally stronger immune systems with stronger inflammatory responses than men, some women may be subjected to an overactive immune system as a result. Other potential causes include sex hormones, chromosomal differences between the genders, and residual fetal cells from pregnancy that continue to circulate the mother's body. 
  • The magnitude of the problem is outlined here.

Other Resources:

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