The beauty of the breast cancer awareness movement is how it underscores the huge success that occurs when people join forces. Before October was designated “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” our female forebears had to suffer, many in silence.
What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
In 1985, the American Academy of Family Physicians, AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation, CancerCare, Inc., and a variety of other sponsors joined forces to create National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. The goal was to raise awareness and funding to complete the necessary research to find a cure.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the disease develops as a result of malignant (cancer) cells forming in the tissues of the breast. These abnormal cells grow and invade healthy cells.
Meanwhile, the damage cancer is doing inside the body is only half of the story – victims of the disease are coping with related challenges including medical bills, physical pain and fears about loss.
The reason the Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign is so successful is that it brings people together when cancer victims on the front lines share their experiences.
For Breast Cancer Awareness 2019 there are nationwide events and fundraisers hosted throughout the month of October. Now a worldwide campaign, more organizations are joining the fight every year. The UK’s largest breast cancer research charity, Breast Cancer Now, has a “Wear it Pink” program where it seeks to highlight the importance of breast cancer awareness, education and research. They raise money for life-saving research and life-changing support for victims of the disease.
Breast Cancer Screening
One of the goals of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to get more men and women screened for early signs of breast cancer. When caught in its earliest stages, breast cancer is easier to treat, and the survival rate is higher.
Screening does not treat or prevent cancer. It means you’ve checked the health of your breasts before there are any signs or symptoms you have the disease. Your health care provider can advise you about the best breast cancer screening procedures for you.
It’s easier to become more informed about the disease when you have a better understanding of anatomy. When you learn the names of body parts and their function, you can make more informed decisions, you can discuss options with your doctor more clearly and you know when something is not functioning normally.
An X-ray of the breast, a mammogram is the best test for physicians to get an early look at cancer. They can sometimes detect the beginning stages of the disease up to three years before you can detect it manually, says the Centers for Disease Control.
Most American women who have insurance are contacted by their physician’s office to complete an annual mammogram. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there is a push toward greater advocacy to get a mammogram. Young women who have never received one can have their first trip to the imaging center and others are reminded to treat their annual visit seriously.
It’s uncomfortable, to be sure. You stand in front of a large X-ray machine while a technician assists you. The machine’s plates flatten the breast so it can be photographed, which sometimes makes the experience painful.
The CDC offers tips to make your mammogram more effective. You should avoid scheduling your mammogram the week prior to your period, because your breasts tend to swell and become tender. And if you wear separates to your appointment – a top and skirt or a top and pants – it’s less awkward because you won’t have to disrobe completely. Also, you want to refrain from wearing deodorant, powders or perfumes, as they can show up on the X-ray as white spots.
The Vital Importance of Breast Cancer Awareness
Because of the incredible demand for breast cancer research, there are plenty of statistics clarifying the causes, the effects and the experience. While 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer, it affects men as well – just in lower numbers.
Approximately 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,930 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. And for men, about 2,670 are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer per year. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.
Because cancer cells can grow nearly anywhere in the body, men can develop a tumor in breast tissue as well. Both boys and girls have a small amount of breast tissue with ducts under the nipple until they reach puberty. While girls enter puberty with heightened levels of female hormones, boys have low levels, so their breast tissue doesn’t grow very much.
The most common male breast disorder is gynecomastia. It’s not a tumor, but an excess of breast tissue. It appears like a button or disk-sized growth, says the American Cancer Society. It can be felt and sometimes seen and should be checked by a doctor.
Other statistics about the disease include:
• After 20 years of increasing rates of breast cancer, the incidence of breast cancer in America began decreasing in the year 2000. It dropped by 7% from 2002 to 2003 and experts connect the drop to a decrease in the use of hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. After the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002, women were reticent to risk their health to regain the benefits of HRT. The problem is that the results suggest a connection between a greater cancer risk and the use of hormone replacement therapy.
• About 41,760 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2019 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. Women under 50 have experienced larger decreases. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
• For American women, deaths due to breast cancer in the U.S. are higher than those for any other cancer except for lung cancer.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month Events
If you’re wondering, “When is breast cancer awareness month?” – just check the calendar for fundraising events such as breast cancer walks that raise money for the cause.
If you want to be a supporter, find a breast cancer walk near you. The American Cancer Society hosts Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, which is a network of walks that unite the community members who are facing down the disease. Those who participate in cancer walks are raising funds to support breast cancer research and provide necessary support to patients and their families.
One of the best-known sources to benefit Breast Cancer Awareness is the Susan G. Komen organization, which hosts breast cancer walks and runs all year. The “More Than Pink Walk” is held on different weekends in various cities. More Than Pink aims to play a critical role in virtually every major advancement in breast cancer.
The “Susan G. Komen 3-Day,” an event that began in 2003, is a 60-mile, three-day breast cancer walk that more than 500,000 people have participated in nationwide. The fundraising event brings in $2,300 for each walker. You camp for two nights in a 3-Day community – either inside a hotel or outdoors.
“I am Komen” is a program that’s part of the Komen Race Series. As the mission engagement part of the organization, its focus is meant to motivate the public to take steps that prevent the spread of breast cancer. It involves a declaration where people make a commitment to breast health. The website has a quiz you can use to test your knowledge about how to reduce your risk of developing cancer.
The American Cancer Society has been coordinating Relay for Life events for many years. Nearly every community with an American Cancer Society chapter also hosts “Relay for Life.”
If you live in Northern Los Angeles County, you can participate in Relay for Life Santa Clarita. The nonprofit group in the Santa Clarita Valley doesn’t align with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s typically held in May in Central Park where hundreds of local residents join forces to entertain attendees and raise money.
Donate to Breast Cancer Awareness
Unless you or a loved one have battled the disease, it’s hard to imagine what you can do to help the cause in a way that’s tangible. There are many breast cancer charities and some opportunities make it easy to contribute, such as a car donation for breast cancer.
Cars2Charities has processed donation cars for the last 30 years, literally sending thousands of dollars to cancer research. Not only can you make a breast cancer donation to benefit any nonprofit you choose, with our process it requires virtually no effort on your part.
Car donations for breast cancer can support charities such as:
Breast Cancer Car Donation Program support research, treatment, and programs for patients and their families.
Michelle's Place Breast Cancer Resource Center offers support services to those battling the disease. There are classes from Reiki and yoga to expressive art where patients can do some self-exploration and obtain healing.
Breast Cancer Solution Foundation provides necessary finances to patients who are uninsured or underinsured. Southern California women facing breast cancer treatment need emotional support and often have mountains of debt as a result of medical bills.
Cancer Support Community Pasadena empowers cancer patients by instructional programs and free services. They provide social and emotional support to not just the patients, but also their families, friends and caregivers. Because of the strong correlation between physical health and emotional well-being, the organization was formed in 1982 to meet those needs.
weSPARK Cancer Support Center contributes to the quality of life for those fighting cancer, as well as their families and loved ones. The free programs provided by weSPARK include support groups, restorative yoga classes, hypnotherapy and nurse navigation.
Cancer Control Society provides nutrition education and materials related to alternative medicine. The nonprofit prevents and controls cancer and other diseases through non-toxic therapies.
Everyone knows someone who’s battled breast cancer and numbers will only go up. When you get more informed about the causes and where you can turn for help, Breast Cancer Awareness Day can become more than just a name on a calendar.