October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This annual campaign was set up in 1985 as a partnership between national public service organisations, professional medical associations, charities, and governmental agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness. The goal of the campaign today is to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer, and to educate people about breast cancer risks, why and how to be screened and seek medical attention, if what to do when a suspicious lump appears.
The Most Prevalent Cancer Globally
According to the World Health Organisation, 2.3 million women received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2020, and 685,000 people died from breast cancer globally in the same year.
Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer worldwide, and at the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women living with the disease who had received their diagnosis within the previous 5 years. Breast cancer can occur in women at any age after puberty but the risk of onset increases with age. Other risk factors include demographics, reproduction status, hormones, genetics, and lifestyle, and you can read more about these in a recent review article.
Early detection programs, as well as new and improved therapies especially since the 1980’s, have resulted in major improvements in prognosis, with a 5-year survival rate of greater than 90% in high-income countries, indicating the importance of education and access to proper screening and healthcare.
Men Get Breast Cancer Too
Although it is rare and often overlooked, men can get breast cancer too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 % of all breast cancer diagnoses in the US are made in men. Symptoms, cancer type and risk factors are similar overall between men and women and treatment generally follow the same approach.
To increase awareness about male breast cancer and to support the men who are affected, the 3rd week in October was established in 2009 as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week by the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men
The animation shown in this video highlights some of the risk factors for developing breast cancer and some behaviors you can adopt to reduce risk.
Video credit: International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
Get Involved – Wear The Pink Ribbon
The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness and is used to identify the wearer as a supporter of breast cancer awareness as well as a supporter of those affected by the disease. The pink ribbon is seen throughout the year, but it is most prominent during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is a central feature in the various fundraising activities held throughout the month.
There are many ways to get involved in Breast Cancer Awareness month, such as campaigning about the cause, hosting a private or public fundraising event, making a donation, or taking part in some of the specially organised events.
Follow and use the #breastcancerawarenessmonth hashtag on social media to spread the word and follow updates about relevant events.