A Brief History
Every October, we see pink. We see pink in businesses and on the streets, in our homes, and on our clothes. But what is this yearly tradition? Why does it matter, and how can we be a part of it?
Simply put, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The event began in 1985 as an attempt by the American Cancer Society to encourage people to get regular mammograms, also known as breast cancer screenings, from healthcare providers. It has since grown into an annual month of support and education for current breast cancer patients and breast cancer survivors.
The Color Pink
The color pink representing breast cancer really started with the ribbon. Though the original pink ribbon was more of a peach color, the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation started handing out pink products to their supporters and eventually birthed the idea of the pink ribbon we see today.
Breast cancer is a cancer type that begins in the breast. Followed closely by skin cancer and lung cancer, metastatic breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, and it affects approximately 266,400 Americans every year.
It’s important to note that despite common belief, current oncology research confirms that breast cancer can affect people of all genders, not just women. Approximately 42,500 breast cancer deaths occur every year.
Thankfully, many people respond well to treatment if caught early, which brings us to mammograms.
Mammography Saves Lives
A mammogram itself is a specialty x-ray that assesses breast health.
An x-ray machine presses down on the breast tissue and takes images. Later, a provider who specializes in breast care will review the scans for abnormalities. The mammogram makes breast cancer diagnosis possible in the early stages. The earlier breast cancer treatment can start, the higher the odds of survivorship are. Some choose treatment options, including radiation, mastectomies, and lumpectomies.
As mentioned earlier, Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Day (October 13th) are initiatives that encourage people to get mammograms — even those who aren’t experiencing the symptoms of breast cancer.
Experts say that mammograms remain the best form of cancer prevention. Since the risk of breast cancer applies to anyone, screening and early detection can go a long way in saving lives.
In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one of the best ways you can help in the fight is by encouraging others to get regular mammograms. Luckily, there are plenty of programs out there to help people get affordable screenings, such as the CDC’s National Early Detection Program.
You can even offer to drive a group of friends to their mammogram appointments. Blast some tunes and get brunch after — preventative care doesn’t have to be an unpleasant chore!
How Can We Help?
First is the obvious (and the most fun) — wearing pink. This can come in many forms. Displaying the pink ribbon somewhere on your person is a tried-and-true show of support.
It’s also common to wear pink clothes or paint your nails. Many people dye their hair pink or wear a pink streak in their hair for the occasion. Sporting pink nails could also be a way to signify your support.
How Is This Helpful?
Displaying the color pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month creates an association. It’s been a tradition long enough that we tend to make the connection between pink breast cancer. You, as an individual, might remind someone to go get a screening by wearing pink in October alone.
Spreading awareness is the first step in causing an actual effect in the way we perceive and go about hopefully curing the disease.
So What Are the Next Steps?
There are a lot of things we can do to show our support for those affected by breast cancer.
Donating can be massively helpful for those who can afford it. There are countless charities out there that provide support to patients and caregivers and help researchers find a cure.
- American Cancer Society
- Breast Cancer Research Foundation
These are only a few of the many options out there. If a donation feels like the option for you, this is only a starting point.
You can donate via companies. Many companies will donate part of their proceeds to a charity for the month.
This is a great way to still help if you want to support a charity but are low on cash. With a bit of extra research to find out who is donating, you can help just by doing your shopping.
Another donation option is starting your own fundraiser with the fundraising option on your social media app of choice.
With a few followers and a few minutes on your phone, you can start bringing in funds to give to a charity of your choice.
Share the Wealth (of Knowledge)
On the same note, social media is a great way to remind people that this disease is real and can affect anyone. Remind people to get checked, share links to resources, and links to organizations they can donate to.
Runs and walks are a great way to help. Communities all over the country will set up fundraising and awareness walks. In fact, at TomboyX, we had a lot of fun at our local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 2018.
Between participants and spectators, mercy booths, sponsors, and volunteers, these events are a great way to educate, celebrate those who have fought against the disease, and earn funds.
Your Time Is Currency
Volunteering has the potential to make an enormous difference in people’s lives. The American Cancer Society is always looking for volunteers, but getting involved can also be on a more personal level.
If you know someone who is fighting breast cancer, driving to appointments, helping with shopping, and tidying their house can make a vast difference. If you can give someone the time and space from their responsibilities to focus on their recovery, even if it doesn't make a tremendous difference to you, it could to them.
Don’t Forget About You
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is for yourself. If you learn something new this October and take steps to manage your own risk for breast cancer, then it’s one more victory.
You start with these small steps:
- Know your risk factors. Risk factors include being a person who is AFAB, being a person who is older than 50 years of age, and differences in your BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes.
- Exercise regularly. This can be as small as getting out of the house and walking once a day. If you live in an urban setting, you can simply walk to do your daily errands.
- Eat well. Look for foods rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, like broccoli, berries, pears, spinach, etc.
Keeping up general health can help us avoid illness, though, of course, it’s never a guarantee. Which is why the most important thing is to get screened.
Remember, mammograms save lives. Those who detect their breast cancer earlier have a much higher chance of survival.
Honoring Breast Cancer Awareness
October has become a time for us to reflect and think about our steps going forward.
What are the ways we can change our lives and in the lives of others? What does Breast Cancer Awareness Month mean to you and those around you?
Ultimately, these are all questions that need to be answered by the individual. There are so many ways to honor Breast Cancer Awareness, and all of them are valid. To you and your loved ones, we see you, and there is hope.