March 8th is International Women’s Day. To mark the occasion this year, Roche is recognising the achievements of women in oncology with the launch of the Women As Change Agents in Oncology Report.
The report celebrates women from around the world who are making remarkable contributions in reducing the devastating impact cancer has upon individuals and societies, providing hope and inspiration through their determination to change the future of cancer care. We hope these stories will spark a conversation on the value innovation brings to the healthcare system, and to society as a whole, examining the role women can play in advancing this dialogue.
Women’s leadership has some important features that are reflected in the stories here. Each of these women demonstrates the important ability to see a gap in knowledge, treatment or care and to set and reach goals associated with closing that gap .
Changing cancer care throughout history
Throughout history, women have been integral to the development of life-saving cancer treatments. Early pioneers such as Marie Curie, who, while facing immense scrutiny for being a female scientist, conducted ground-breaking research in radioactivity which led to the discovery of radium and polonium; or Professor Janet Rowley, who in 1972 became the first person to discover the link between genetics and cancer, helping to revolutionize cancer science leading up to the birth of targeted cancer therapies.
Marie Curie (1867 -1934) was a double Nobel Prize-winning physicist and chemist who helped shape modern chemistry and physics at a time when women were rarely acknowledged as having any standing in professional life, science or academia. Her work led to the discovery of radioactive elements, opening the way for treating many types of cancer, as well as wider advances in radiology and x-ray techniques.
Inspiration and new perspectives
The stories and perspectives of some of today’s inspirational women provide a real-world insight into the greatest areas of need and ways in which they could be addressed. Whether it be as patients, caregivers, patient advocates, policymakers, doctors, surgeons or scientists, women can play a powerful and effective role in tackling the growing global cancer burden. With the cancer burden set to increase in the decades ahead, it is more important than ever for this change to take place, especially when one considers the disproportionate impact cancer continues to have on women and the resulting consequences for healthcare systems and societies worldwide.
Inequalities persisting today
Globally, women and girls commit substantially more time than men to unpaid care work, as it is most often mothers, wives, sisters and daughters that care for a family member living with cancer. With informal caregivers providing an average of 35-50 care hours per week, this can have a detrimental impact on a woman’s health, wellbeing and finances. In some cases, it may be necessary to significantly reduce or even leave paid work entirely, with very little or no financial support. This is just one of many societal factors which are currently under-recognised when considering the true value of health investments which reduce these impacts.
There are also issues to be addressed in terms of stigma and the consequences of cancer treatment, such as infertility and disfiguration following invasive breast cancer surgery.
Inspiring collaboration to drive change
By celebrating the outstanding contributions of women as change agents in oncology, this report aims to inspire readers to work together creatively and harness the power of women to help reduce the disproportionate burden cancer places on societies today.
To achieve this important goal, we believe that a broader set of criteria needs to be considered when assessing the impact of cancer on society, and the resulting benefit that innovation in healthcare provides. As such, we are committed to collaborating with others who see the potential of women to drive this change, in order to:
- Generate evidence to illustrate the direct and indirect burdens of cancer on women and the impact this has on societies across the globe
- Explore and implement initiatives with the goal of reducing the direct and indirect burdens of cancer on women
- Increase awareness and recognition of women’s contributions to the cancer field as a tremendous source of advancement
- Support health policies and programs that advance women’s role in the fight against cancer
- Inspire and empower women around the world to activate their own powers as change agents to further accelerate positive change
Read through the report to see more women in their role as change agents in oncology.