October is the month where you will see the color pink being sported by elementary kids, former cancer patients and their families and even professional athletes. They do this to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Millions of people from all walks of life stand behind this cause because it impacts so many people’s lives.
Why Does Breast Cancer Need So Much Attention?
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the U.S. According to the CDC, about 245,000 women are diagnosed every year, and close to 41,000 women will not survive.
Also, while 60% of all breast cancer cases are found in women over 65, younger women between the ages of 20 – 40 are also at risk. However, since 1989, the number of breast cancer deaths has steadily plummeted. This is attributed to the rise of breast cancer awareness which has in-turn lead to:
- Greater awareness leading to earlier detection and testing.
- Increased funding for research
- Improved support for women living with the condition
- Recent improvements in genetic testing
- Improvements in traditional chemotherapy, radiation and surgery
- Newer targeted therapies, precision medicines and immunotherapy
Breast Cancer Prevention
Self-Checks and Self-Care
Women should perform self-checks on a regular basis to look for unusual lumps or pain in the breast area. Regular self-checks can alert women to potential cancer at earlier stages when it is easier to treat. Women who want to reduce their risk for breast cancer are also encouraged to eat a healthy plant-based diet, avoid processed and junk foods and avoid exposure to chemicals or other substances that have been linked to breast cancer.
Mammograms are special screenings that are designed to detect breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that women start to screen for breast cancer at age 40. Once a woman reaches the age of 40, she should have a mammogram every year to see if cancer is present. Keep in mind that a person’s survival rate is extremely high if breast cancer is detected early.
BRCA Genetic Markers
Awareness about BRCA genetic markers is also allowing more women to know if they are at risk for breast cancer at earlier stages of their lives. Every woman has the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which have been found to impact an individual’s chance of developing breast cancer. The two genes help prevent cancer by repairing DNA breaks that may predispose one cancer or cause uncontrolled growth of tumors.
However, when these two genes mutate, the risk of contracting breast cancer at an early age becomes higher. Persons with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have a high chance of developing breast cancer before age 70. Additionally, BRCA1 mutation is has been shown to lead to more aggressive types of breast cancer that are harder to treat. But if detected early, breast cancer can be successfully treated, even if it is in women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation.
Why is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so important?
Increased awareness of breast cancer has been critical to the current trends of improvements in research and treatment. It has also given women and their families the courage to step forward and talk about their condition and find the support they need to live beyond breast cancer.
While awareness has played an enormous role in saving lives, the improvements haven’t always been evenly distributed through society. Women in minority communities tend to have higher than average mortality rates, especially compared with other women aged 40 to 50.
This is attributed to limited access to quality health care, education and clinical trials. Mistrust of the medical establishment and societal taboos about getting checked can also lead to women waiting too long to get treatment.
Additionally, individuals living in low-income communities are more likely to be exposed to lead, industrial fumes and other substance which are likely contributors to cancer.
Creating awareness through campaigns such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month means that more women from all walks of life can get the information they need.
How to Take Part in Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is supported by multiple charities, private donors, businesses, and various organizations. People wear pink ribbons or clothes to show support, they sponsor charity runs or walks, talk about it at sporting events, concerts, festivals, fairs, and even hold parties to raise awareness.
Currently, we are partnering with Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) a national non-profit organization whose programs and services help people whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer. For over 20 years they have provided information as well as community and support that can be trusted, is easy to access and respectful of the needs of those who are fighting and surviving breast cancer. We are partnering with them by donating a portion of all sales between Oct. 23rd and the 31st and we are excited by the opportunity to collaborate with them in the future. Ultimately, Breast Cancer Awareness Month lets women know that even with a breast cancer diagnosis they can get the treatment and support they need to live a long and healthy life.