This year marks the 30th anniversary of the official declaration of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. Originated in 1986 by the American Cancer Society as a promotion to encourage preventative mammograms as part of early detection, it was recognized nationwide when Senate Joint Resolution 310 was ratified and signed into law on October 11, 1990 by then-President George H.W. Bush.
In 30 years, the movement towards education, research and awareness has grown leaps and bounds. From the now-familiar pink ribbon, to fund-raising walks and memorial campaigns, it has become a widespread part of today’s life. Whether you’ve known a friend or family member diagnosed, or are a survivor yourself, it’s a disease that unfortunately has touched the very fabric of society, affecting our families and loved ones.
Numerous notable figures have spoken out and shared stories out about their diagnosis, treatment and recovery such as First Lady Betty Ford, author Judy Blume, musician Sheryl Crow, news anchor Robin Roberts, actress Olivia Newton John, fashion designer Betsey Johnson, tennis star Martina Navratilova and women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. By recognizing this month, the aim to raise awareness and encourage proactive early detection, increase research and funding continues until the mission to eliminate this disease has been fulfilled.
Unfortunately, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, except skin cancers. One in eight women will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Every two minutes a woman is diagnosed. Lesser known, men can be diagnosed as well, at a much lower rate, however still important to know. In 2020 approximately 2600 men will also be diagnosed. It is important to continue the push towards educating women and their families about risk factors, early detection efforts, treatment options and ways to continue this important work in our communities.
However, there is hope! In recent years, there has been a gradual decline in breast cancer rates in women 50 years and older. In addition, mortality rates have been declining since 1990, with thanks to such efforts as ongoing research, increased awareness, early detection, better screening methods and more effective treatment options. The efforts to promote awareness, support early screenings and education about risk factors have made an impact and will quite possibly eradicate this disease one day.
Ways to Reduce the Lifestyle-Related Risk Factors
- Make physical activity and exercise a part of your life
- Make healthy food choices- a nutritious, low fat diet including fruits and vegetables
- Do not smoke. Primary and secondary smoke are a confirmed risk factor for many cancers, including factors. If you smoke, make the decision to stop.
- Maintain a healthy weight through health diet and exercise and watch fluctuations in weight after menopause.
- Limit/moderate alcohol consumption
- Carefully evaluate any hormonal birth control or hormone therapy options with your doctor to assess long term effects
How to Support Others
- Remind family members and loved ones to schedule and keep regular doctor visits, and if 45+, a yearly mammogram
- Write cards of encouragement to breast cancer patients or healthcare survivors
- Participate in a walk/run activity such as the Susan G. Komen Pink Walk
- Assemble and pack a Hope Kit , care packages for women currently undergoing treatment
- Encourage your employer or organization to help support the cause through fundraising, financial contributions or cause marketing
While we have come a long way in 30 years, there is still work to be done! As with many diseases, early diagnosis can be key to a positive outcome. Breast Cancers that are diagnosed early in the localized stage, have a 99% survival rate over five years. The importance of being aware, actively involved and proactive in taking care of your health can make all the difference.