Every ten minutes someone is diagnosed and given the devastating news that they have breast cancer, something that not only affects themselves but their friends and family too. As a result, around 12,000 women and 80 men die every year due to the disease. Breast Cancer Awareness Month was started in 1985 by two American companies and takes place every October. It has now become an international health campaign that is widely recognised and people from all over the world enthusiastically take part. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the disease and to get people involved in helping out and raising funds for research into diagnostics and treatments. The prominent pink ribbon first appeared in 1991 during a New York City race for breast cancer survivors where all participants received a pink ribbon to wear. However, it was only in 1993 that it became an official symbol when Estée Lauder founded their “Breast Cancer Research Foundation” project. Today the pink ribbon is commonly worn, not only in the month of October but throughout the whole year.
As with any cancer, the earlier it is diagnosed, the easier it is to be treated and so self-examination is highly recommended and encouraged. It might sound a bit weird to think of examining your own breast, but in the long run you will be doing it for your own health and safety. Around a woman’s menstrual period, breasts can tend to me ‘lumpier’ than normal so don’t be too alarmed at first when checking. The best time to check your breasts would be in the shower or bath and by running your hand over them and the surrounding areas such as under the arm. If you do notice anything unusual, consult your GP but bare in mind that 9 out of 10 breast lumps found are benign, so are not cancers.
The exact reasons for why and how breast cancer develops are still being researched but there are cautionary actions that can be taken to make sure that you are at less risk. You can get genetically tested if you have a history of breast cancer in your family and this would help to tell you the likelihood of developing cancer and how you can prepare. Risks increase with age which is why mammography testing is extremely important for women aged 50 and over. Having higher levels of hormones in your blood is another factor which may affect the chances of getting breast cancer, as is your diet – which also plays an important part, not only in the risk of getting breast cancer, but with your general wellbeing. Having a generally healthy lifestyle – that is eating correctly and staying active – is the most effective way to look after your body and prevent disease.
There are endless amounts of opportunities and events that you can get involved with in order to raise money for research or to just help support breast cancer organisations. Cancer Research UK, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Care are just some of the big names that have various activities going on throughout the month of October. For example, for the sporty ones out there, you can take part in walks, runs and triathlons. For the bakers, holding a cake sale or bake-a-thon are simple ideas to raise money and for those who are bold enough, why not try dying your hair pink? If none of that takes your fancy, just simply purchasing a pink ribbon from supermarkets or Cancer Research shops will still be a huge help. All the money raised through these events and through collections goes towards funding helplines, education in communities and training health workers, so your efforts are definitely for a good cause. Think pink.