Every fall, you probably notice the pink bows that seem to pop up everywhere. That's because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each October, people across the country sport the famous pink ribbon, while others rally in support of breast cancer awareness through relays, walks and various charitable donations to the cause. But October isn't the only time people come out to support breast cancer awareness -- organizations focused on the disease are fully operational year round.
The breast cancer awareness campaign has been fighting to educate and empower the public for the last quarter century. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer among U.S. women and the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women. More than 40,000 women lose the battle each year, while five times as many are diagnosed [source: National Breast Cancer Foundation]. And surprisingly, this disease isn't reserved for women. Roughly 2,150 men are diagnosed with the disease each year, and approximately 20 percent of those individuals die from it [source: National Breast Cancer Foundation].
The support this cause has rallied is inspiring. Serving as a National Breast Cancer Foundation organizer, Karen Fitch began working with the organization after her mother died from breast cancer. Though currently in remission, Fitch was also diagnosed with breast cancer just a few years ago. According to Fitch, she did not join in the fight for breast cancer awareness just for her mother or even for herself; she wanted to make a difference in the lives of the women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future [source: Fitch]. You can, too.
Thousands of breast cancer awareness organizations in the country work to educate everyone -- women and men of all ages -- about breast cancer. If you are interested in joining the battle against breast cancer, read on to find out how you can make a difference.
Breast Cancer Testing Organizations
Women have been told throughout their lives that self-examinations are important, and breast cancer patients would reiterate that. It's important that women, and even men, constantly check their breasts for lumps or irregularities. If you think you have detected something, you should get to your doctor as soon as possible.
But sometimes, spotting an irregularity isn't that simple. That's why breast cancer testing organizations are there to offer assistance.
There are many different types of breast cancer testing organizations, all with the same goal in mind of detecting and treating breast cancer. For example, some will provide screening tests and treatment options while other organizations work to determine if genetics will be a factor for breast cancer inheritance.
Genetics can be a factor for breast cancer patients, and many organizations are beginning to turn to the genetic equation. The American Academy of Family Physicians is actively involved in the relationship between genetics and breast cancer, and it has created a method that will screen for genetic risk of breast cancer. The test will screen for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations on the chromosomes that are linked to breast cancer [source: Rosenthal].
If genetic testing is not in your area of interest, there are other ways for you to get involved with breast cancer testing organizations.
Monetary donations are one way to help the cause. Organizations such as BreastCancer.org, a non-profit organization that specializes in testing and treatment for the disease, rely on donations and fundraisers. This organization in particular is always looking for help through monetary donations, medical expert help and nutritionists to assist recently diagnosed patients [source: BreastCancer.org].
Testing and treatment are very important in the fight against breast cancer, and you have a wide array of opportunities to get involved. For example, support organizations want volunteers. To learn how you can volunteer with a support-focused organization, keep reading.
Breast Cancer Support Organizations
As mentioned before, more than 220,000 women and men are diagnosed with breast cancer on a yearly basis. And during their battle, these people need support from the people around them. A breast cancer support organization is designed to be a friend, a shoulder to cry on and even a source of laughter in a breast-cancer patient's life. The support can help inspire those affected by the disease to fight. All across the globe there are thousands of these support organizations -- it's likely that some are even stationed in or near your hometown.
If you've ever seen throngs of crowds decked out in pink costumes, or been invited to run a local 5k for breast cancer awareness, then you've probably already heard of the "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" organization. After Komen's life was taken by breast cancer, her sister Nancy, G. Brinker, wanted to fulfill a promise she made to Komen by trying to help patients diagnosed with the disease. In doing so, Nancy G. Brinker (Komen's sister) founded what is now the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors, volunteers and activists [source: Susan G. Komen for the Cure]. Susan G. Komen for the Cure focuses on preventing death, providing quality care and pushing for scientific advances in the search for a cure. The organization accepts volunteers and donations.
As mentioned before, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and BreastCancer.org offer outlets for you to help. If you struggle with finding a support organization near you, contact your local hospital for assistance. Medical centers are always familiar with support organizations for any disease, especially breast cancer.
Although National Breast Cancer Awareness Month only comes once a year, breast cancer affects lives year round. So, whether you feel motivated to help with testing and treatment or be a friend when one is needed the most, you have the power to make a difference in someone's life.
To learn more about what you can do, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Anthony, Kim. Personal Interview. 4/29/09.
- BreastCancer.org. "Home." (Accessed 5/7/09)http://www.breastcancer.org/
- Fitch, Karen. Personal Interview. 4/29/09.
- National Breast Cancer Foundation. "Breast Cancer Myths." (Accessed 4/29/09). http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/About-Breast-Cancer/Myths.aspx
- National Breast Cancer Foundation. "Home." (Accessed 4/29/15)http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/
- National Breast Cancer Foundation. "What is Breast Cancer?" (Accessed 4/29/09) http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/About-Breast-Cancer/What-Is-Breast-Cancer/
- Network of Strength. "Home." (Accessed 5/7/09)http://www.networkofstrength.org/
- Rosenthal, Thomas C. and Stirling M. Puck. "Screening for Genetic Risk of Breast Cancer." American
- Academy of Family Physicians. 1/1/99. (Accessed 5/7/09).http://www.aafp.org/afp/990101ap/99.html
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure. "About Us." (Accessed 5/7/09). http://ww5.komen.org/AboutUs/AboutUs.html