As the leaves change and the holidays approach, it’s time for us to pause to remember National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The October Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign was founded in 1985 by the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries. Together, these organizations wanted to increase research funding, spread information about signs of breast cancer, and support patients and their families. While the pink ribbon of breast cancer is recognizable around the world, it is important to know a few essential facts about the disease so as to protect yourself or support the millions of women who are affected by Breast Cancer each year. If you find yourself asking, “what is breast cancer?”, spend some time this October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, learning more about the disease and how you can help.
Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells within the breast, either in the lobules, ducts, or connective tissue. Like many other types of cancer, this disease can easily spread to other areas of the body. Each year, millions of new cases are identified, and breast cancer cuts the lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women too short. Most of these deaths occur among women who were diagnosed too late, mainly due to lack of awareness and barriers to medical services. While not all cases of breast cancer can be cured, knowing what is breast cancer and receiving early diagnoses can save thousands of lives, which is why the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so important.
There’s no exact answer for why is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it’s a time of year between back to school and the holidays when women should take time to prioritize their own health. At its inaugural debut, the former First Lady, Betty Ford, helped kick off the series of events for the first National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Ford herself was a breast cancer survivor who had been diagnosed during her husband’s presidency. For her, it didn’t matter why is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month or who her husband was. What mattered was knowing how to spot and treat this disease and sharing that information with the world.
Throughout the month of October, you’ll see a variety of events and fundraisers dedicated to spreading awareness and raising funds, from cocktail hours to Zumba classes. These are great opportunities for men and women to get together and educate themselves. The funding from these events goes towards different breast-cancer related causes, like funding for mammograms in impoverished areas or for additional research.
There are a lot of ways to be involved with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but perhaps the most important is to learn how to check yourself for signs of breast cancer. Adult women should perform a self-exam at least once a month, and starting this practice early helps you learn what feels normal so that you can alert your doctor if there are any changes that could be possible signs of breast cancer. Begin by checking yourself in the mirror, noting any swelling, color changes, or dimpling of the skin. Then, with one hand above your head, press your finger pads along each breast and armpit, feeling for lumps, thickening, or any changes. Then, while lying down, press down on one breast at a time, making sweeping motions radiating from the nipple out as you press around the entire breast.
Taking time this month to fully understand what is breast cancer could possibly save your life or the life of a friend. While most people have heard of the disease, fewer know the signs of breast cancer or how to detect it. It’s exactly this lack of awareness that people are trying to change during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.