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Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Early Detection And Treatment Can Save Lives

Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Early Detection And Treatment Can Save Lives

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  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of death
  • Breast cancer awareness month is a campaign observed worldwide in October every year to create awareness about the disease and raise funds for research

Importance of Breast Cancer Awareness - It can Save Lives

It is estimated that during the Breast Cancer Awareness month in October alone, nearly 4000 women will hear the dreaded words, "it is breast cancer" in the United Kingdom. If only every woman did regular self-examination of breasts in the UK, nearly 1500 lives could be saved annually. In the US, over 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually and unfortunately over 40,000 die due to the disease.


Looking at such figures, the importance of raising awareness about breast cancer, the need to catch it early and to seek prompt medical attention cannot be over emphasized. Knowledge about the signs and symptoms of cancer and the available resources for early diagnosis and treatment, especially among women can go a long way in saving lives and preventing tragedy and loss to families across the world.

Birth of Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign

The first ever National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was founded in October 1985 in the US by the American Cancer Society to educate and raise awareness about breast cancer. Initially, the campaign began by highlighting the importance of undergoing regular mammography (x-ray of the breasts) by women above 30 years for early detection and treatment.

The Pink Ribbon - The Global Symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness

The first ever association of the "pink color" with breast cancer was by the Susan Komen Foundation in 1991, when they distributed pink visors to cancer survivors who participated in the "Race for Cure" in New York City.

In 1993, with the establishment of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the pink ribbon came to symbolize breast cancer awareness, although it had previously signified breast cancer.

Since then the pink color and the pink ribbon have been used to telling effect worldwide by several organizations and individuals in their campaigns.

Some of the ways of using the "pink" color to create breast cancer awareness include the following:
  • Lighting important civic buildings or landmarks in the community or town pink in color
  • Pink ribbons may be distributed to public at prominent locations in the community
  • Shops can have a "pink" window display theme
  • Pink themed messages may be displayed at vantage points in the community
  • Sports teams wear pink to show solidarity and support for breast cancer awareness
  • Comic strip artists use pink on one day during the month
  • Individuals and offices may decide to dress up in pink and have a "wear pink" day to show support
  • Walkathons and marathons may be held to raise funds for breast cancer research
  • Educational seminars and free cancer screenings can be offered to women
  • Several non-profit organizations use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to sell pink themed stuff such as tee shirts, mugs, bracelets, pens and other items to raise funds for cancer charities.

Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer - Importance of Self Examination

Breast cancer usually is felt as a lump in the breast, that is usually painless. There may be a lump in the armpit too. Changes in the skin over the breast and nipple may be a sign of underlying cancer. Any sudden increase in breast size and shape change should not be ignored. If you find any of these changes when you examine your breasts seek immediate medical advice.

Risk factors For Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can be caused by genetic as well as environmental factors. Some of these can be modified and appropriate interventional measures can be undertaken to reduce the risk.

Risk factors include the following:
  • Increasing age, being a female, and early age of onset of menses
  • Delayed menopause
  • Family history of breast cancer in first degree relatives, for example, mother or sister
  • Caucasian women are at increased risk compared to Blacks, Asians or mixed race women
  • Sedentary life and physical inactivity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Radiotherapy to chest for previous cancer
  • Women who have never undergone pregnancy (nulliparity)
  • Use of combination oral contraceptives
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption

Prevention Or Reducing Breast Cancer Risk

Some of the risk factors mentioned are non-modifiable, for example, age, sex, ethnicity, and age of onset of menses. However, some measures may be initiated to reduce the risk or even prevent breast cancer by addressing the modifiable risk factors.
  • Be physically active and exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol
  • Avoid unnecessary or frequent x-rays
  • Avoid or limit using hormone replacement therapy and discuss suitable alternatives with your doctor
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Do regular self-examination of breasts to feel and detect any abnormality
  • Women with a family history of breast cancer are advised to undergo periodic mammograms to detect any new changes and to seek prompt medical attention in its event
In conclusion, it is heartening to note that the incidence of breast cancer in women older than 50 years has declined, possibly due to a decrease in prescription of post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy. Death rates are also gradually falling due to better screening programs, early detection and more effective treatments.


  1. Breast Cancer Awareness Month - October - (http://breastcancernow.org/get-involved/fundraise-for-us/take-part-in-a-fundraising-event/breast-cancer-awareness-month-october)
  2. Breast Cancer Facts - (http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-facts)
  3. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Breast_Cancer_Awareness_Month)
Source: Medindia

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