Breast Cancer Awareness Month

For a generation, October has been the month designated to raise awareness of Breast Cancer around the world, and all because of a campaign started by Evelyn Lauder, of beauty giant Estee Lauder.  Since its launch in 1992, the now-familiar Pink Ribbon campaign has raised close to $50 million in contributions to  The Breast Cancer Research Foundation through fundraising, the sale of the Pink Ribbon and the wide range of beauty brands getting on board with the Pink-ification of key products worldwide.

Now in its 19th year of raising awareness of the disease and funds to help find a cure, the campaign has taken an ambitious and direct approach to spread the mesage and awareness on a global scale.  Last year’s campaign was the biggest to date, and this year’s hopes to be even bigger and better.
Breast cancer is THE most common cause of cancer in women, excluding skin cancer.  Approximately 1.3 million cases of breast cancer will be detected each year.  Just stop to think about that for a moment.  I’ll take a safe bet that we all know someone who has been affected by cancer, or who knows someone else who has.  I know I do.  It’s a very sobering thought.  The chances of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer is as high as 1 in 8, and if there are cases of breast cancer in your family, then the probability rises dramatically.  Upto 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer already have a family member with the disease.
In a world in which medical science has advanced so quickly that we can transplant hearts and other vital organs, surgically graft new limbs to those who have lost and even transplant whole new faces, it’s a humbling thought that we still have not found the cure for cancer.  The fight still goes on to find a cure, but in the meantime, raising awareness of the signs of breast cancer and early detection is key to helping women in their own individual fight against the disease. 
Self examination is key.  Make it a point to self-examine each and every month, and if you don’t know how, find out from your local GP or nurse.  Only by knowing what is normal for you can you know when there is something that needs to be investigated further.  You’re never too young to start – according to the American Cancer Society, women should begin breast self-examinations in their 20’s.  The AMC also recommends that women aged 40 and over should have a screening a mammogram every year.
It’s a very different world from the one in which I was painfully first made aware of breast cancer, 31 years ago.  Back then, there was very little knowledge or awareness, little or no support for breast cancer sufferers and survivors, and people didn’t really talk about it as openly as they do now.  These days, thankfully, celebrities who have suffered talk openly about their experience and treatments and the whole taboo has been entirely lifted, which can only be for the good. 
I could write reams about this highly emotive subject, not least because I know so many women who have been affected, both in my family and friends.  But it’s because of this that I’ve found this a very difficult piece to write.  It’s taken me far longer than it should and my emotions are running so high that I’ve found it very hard to concentrate, bursting into tears while I’m writing.  I think it’s because we are so helpless in the face of this huge non-discriminating disease.  Not that I want to be a scaremonger, but we are all at risk, and that’s what is so scary.
Let’s do whatever we can to fight this silent killer.  Talk openly about it, raise awareness, raise funds and let’s hope that we find a cure in our lifetime.
Go to the BCA facebook page or direct to the the BCA webpage to donate to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and to the Illumination Page to take part in the campaign to “Shine a Light on Breast Cancer”, through digital messages, in a bid to light the world map pink as part of the campaign to raise awareness and knowledge.  Fund raise in whatever way you can – be it by buying products affiliated with the campaign, coffee mornings, or even participate or support the annual Tesco Run For Life races – if you’ve ever taken part, you’ll know how emotional those events are.
Loads more to say, I just can’t say anymore right now.  But I will do, during the month of October.

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