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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How to Get Involved

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, celebrated every October, is pivotal in raising awareness about this widespread disease and its impact on countless lives. 

As an international campaign, its primary focus is highlighting the importance of early detection and educating the public about risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options. Acknowledging this annual event brings to the fore the realities of those living with breast cancer and the need for ongoing research, support, and preventative measures.

The pink ribbon, a ubiquitous symbol during the campaign, represents unity, strength, and dedication in the fight against breast cancer. Stories from survivors, researchers, and advocates inspire us and remind us that we are not alone in this battle.

Breast cancer affects 2.1 million women yearly, and early detection is crucial in improving survival rates. Through awareness generated during this month, we have the potential to save lives and change the course of countless futures.

Featured in: October - Awareness Months, Days & Observances

History of Breast Cancer Awareness Month 

Breast cancer ribbon
Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) was founded in October 1985. The American Cancer Society and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca teamed up for this annual campaign to highlight the significance of mammography as the most reliable method for early breast cancer detection1.

As the years went by, BCAM broadened its horizons, encompassing early detection and research, treatment breakthroughs, and support for those grappling with the illness.

The pink ribbon, an instantly recognizable symbol of BCAM, first appeared in 1991. The Susan G. Komen Foundation distributed these ribbons at a Race for the Cure event in New York City. 

Fast forward to 1993, and Evelyn Lauder of Estée Lauder Companies and Alexandra Penney, then-editor of Self magazine, created the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). This collaboration further cemented the pink ribbon's association with breast cancer awareness and helped the cause become recognized globally.

BCAM has seen several milestones in its history, one of which occurred in 2012 when the World Health Organization declared October 19 as World Breast Cancer Day. This move emphasized the criticality of raising awareness and early detection worldwide. 

Numerous organizations and influential individuals have lent their support in combating breast cancer. Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and Evelyn Lauder, co-creator of the pink ribbon and BCRF, are two invaluable contributors to this vital cause pitched to increase awareness. 

Breast Cancer and Its Challenges

Pink hope sign for breast cancer
Photo by Thirdman

Breast cancer, a pervasive disease that affects both men and women, occurs due to the uncontrolled growth of breast cells. Its development finds roots in various factors, such as genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences. While the mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are responsible for 5-10% of hereditary cases, most diagnoses result from complex and multifaceted situations.

One of the most significant challenges in combating breast cancer is early detection. Mammograms, the primary method for identifying the disease at its onset, are far from flawless. They occasionally produce false positives or fail to detect cancer altogether. 

As a result, some patients experience undue stress and undergo unnecessary medical procedures, while others remain ignorant of their condition until it reaches advanced stages. These challenges highlight the pressing need for enhanced detection methods and a heightened awareness of breast cancer's symptoms and risk factors.

Moreover, disparities in access to quality healthcare have contributed to higher mortality rates among specific populations. For example, African American women face a 40% higher likelihood of succumbing to breast cancer than white women3.

Treatment can also cost as much as $20,000 to $100,000, another significant obstacle many patients face. 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, therefore, is indispensable in promoting education, support, and advocacy, striving to improve outcomes for all affected by this devastating illness.

5 Important Facts

  • With breast cancer affecting about 2.3 million individuals worldwide yearly, it has become the most common cancer among women2.
  • Did you know your genetic makeup could be vital in determining your breast cancer risk? A family history of breast cancer means women are twice as likely to develop the disease. 
  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of breast cancer. By maintaining a healthy weight, undertaking exercise regularly, and limiting alcohol consumption, you can genuinely lower your chances of facing this disease. 
  • Regular mammogram screenings and self-examinations can help spot potential breast health issues before they escalate, drastically improving the prognosis.
  • The good news is that recent advances in research and successful treatment options have led to considerable improvements in breast cancer survival rates. Today, the 5-year survival rate for localized breast cancer stands at an impressive 99%. 

Efforts and Initiatives

Breast cancer awareness and prevention have seen considerable progress thanks to the tireless work of dedicated organizations, governments, and local communities. 

Take the Susan G. Komen Foundation, for instance; since its establishment, it has funneled more than $3 billion into research, community health programs, and advocacy. 

Similarly, the National Breast Cancer Founder (NBCF) follows suit, offering invaluable life-changing support services, educational resources, and research funding to prevent and cure the disease. By involving communities, empowering patients, and pouring resources into cutting-edge research, these organizations showcase their unwavering commitment to taking on breast cancer.

Consider also the innovative campaigns that contribute to breast cancer awareness, such as the Estée Lauder Companies' Breast Cancer Campaign. 

The campaign has generated over $99 million to bolster global research, education, and medical services by leveraging product sales, social media, and events. By tapping into the power of collaboration, these initiatives not only amass funds but also spark conversations and foster understanding of the daily challenges faced by those with breast cancer.

How to Get Involved In Breast Cancer Awareness Month

2 women holding pink ribbons
Photo by Anna Tarazevich

Breast Cancer Awareness Month presents many fulfilling and productive opportunities to get involved and support the cause. Diving into local events such as charity walks, runs, or bike rides is a fantastic way to become an active participant. These events generate essential funds for life-saving research and forge connections with like-minded individuals passionate about making a difference.

You can help dispel myths and ignite open conversations about breast cancer by sharing accurate information, educational resources, and personal stories. 

Building connections online allows you to create a support network far beyond your local area. Additionally, consider volunteering at nearby support organizations or treatment centers – a hands-on approach and offering emotional support that has a tangible impact on those affected by the disease.

Knowledge is key in the fight against breast cancer, and empowering yourself and others is one of the most valuable contributions you can make. 

Encourage your loved ones to learn about the signs, symptoms, and risk factors, and stress the critical role of early detection through regular screenings. Seek educational events or webinars to keep up with the latest research, treatments, and prevention strategies. With knowledge as your ally, you'll play a pivotal role in the ongoing effort to conquer breast cancer.

Conclusion

Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as a life-saving catalyst, shedding light on the significance of early detection and prevention of conditions like metastatic breast cancer. Each October, this global initiative unites communities and empowers individuals to take control of their health while standing in solidarity with those affected by breast cancer. 

We spark positive change by raising awareness, motivating people to prioritize regular screenings and self-examinations to help find breast cancer early, and open dialogues with medical professionals.

The need for our support remains as crucial as ever. Small gestures can profoundly impact this cause, such as donating to reputable research organizations, joining local events like charity runs, or using social media platforms to share inspiring stories and vital information. Remember that even wearing pink can help spread the message. 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month FAQs

1. What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign observed in October to increase awareness about breast cancer, its signs and symptoms, and the importance of early detection.

2. What causes breast cancer?

The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, but some risk factors that may increase the chance of developing the disease include age, family history, genetics, hormonal factors, alcohol consumption, and obesity.

3. What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

The signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump or thickening in the breast or under the arm, nipple discharge or inversion, dimpling or puckering of the skin, redness or scaling of the breast skin, and changes in the size and shape of the breast.

4. How can I reduce my risk of developing breast cancer?

You can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, breastfeeding, avoiding exposure to radiation and environmental pollutants, and getting regular breast cancer screenings.

5. How can I support Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

You can support Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing pink ribbons or clothing, participating in fundraising events, making donations to breast cancer research organizations, volunteering with local breast cancer organizations, and spreading awareness about breast cancer prevention and early detection.

1

Smith, R. A., Andrews, K. S., Brooks, D., Fedewa, S. A., Manassaram-Baptiste, D., Saslow, D., ... & Wender, R. C. (2018). Cancer screening in the United States, 2018: A review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and current issues in cancer screening. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 68(4), 297-316.

2

Sung, H., Ferlay, J., Siegel, R. L., Laversanne, M., Soerjomataram, I., Jemal, A., & Bray, F. (2021). Global cancer statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 71(3), 209-249.

3

DeSantis, C. E., Ma, J., Gaudet, M. M., Newman, L. A., Miller, K. D., Goding Sauer, A., ... & Siegel, R. L. (2019). Breast cancer statistics, 2019. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 69(6), 438-451.

Photo by Susan G. Komen 3-Day on Unsplash
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