OCTOBER IS BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

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OCTOBER IS BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

 

October marks the beginning of Breast Awareness month, an annual campaign that aims to increase knowledge and awareness of the disease.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), also referred to in America as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

NBCAM was founded in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs). The aim of the NBCAM from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer.

In 1993 Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estee Lauder Companies founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its symbol, though this was not the first time the ribbon was used to symbolize breast cancer. In the fall of 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation had handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors.

A variety of events around the world are organized in October, including walks and runs, and the pink illumination of landmark buildings. In the United States, the National Football League promotes breast cancer awareness by incorporating pink on and off the field, and comic strip artists use pink on one day in October.

In October 1983 the Race for the Cure was held for the first time in Dallas, Texas, where 800 people participated. According to the organizers, by 2002 the number of participants reached 1.3 million and the event was held in over 100 US cities. The event is also being organized in several other parts of the World.

There are various two-day-long walks to raise money for breast cancer research institutes. Avon sponsors a 39-mile (60 km) walk. A walk in Atlanta offers varying lengths of up to 30 miles. Canada’s large “Weekend to End Breast Cancer” features a 60 km walk. St. Louis, MO offers a one-day-long breast cancer walk. This walk consists of three miles.

For the entire month of October Great Architect is sponsoring a Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. They are encouraging all members of their guild and in their games to wear pink for the entire month. You can visit their site and related thread for ways to support Breast Cancer Awareness.

Male breast cancer, which is rare, is generally overlooked. In 2009 the male breast cancer advocacy groups Out of the Shadow of Pink, A Man’s Pink, and the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men joined together to globally establish the third week of October as “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week”.

Inspiration for the foundation of NBCAM came from Zeneca Inc. in 1989 when they began a breast cancer screening program within their company. In 1996, with the screening program and study complete, Zeneca Inc. analyzed the total monetary amounts lost due to the increase in health care provided compared with the total monetary amounts lost if the company was to scrap the program were compared. The total costs to the company of running the early detection program were estimated to be $400,000. Total costs to the company if they chose not to run the program were estimated to be around $1.5 million.

Critics have said that “the BCAM idea ‘was conceived and paid for by a British chemical company that both profits from this epidemic and may be contributing to its cause'”.  Sometimes referred to as National Breast Cancer Industry Month, critics of NBCAM point to a conflict of interest between corporations sponsoring breast cancer awareness while profiting from diagnosis and treatment.  The breast cancer advocacy organization, Breast Cancer Action, has said repeatedly in newsletters and other information sources that October has become a public relations campaign that avoids discussion of the causes and prevention of breast cancer and instead focuses on “awareness” as a way to encourage women to get their mammograms. The term pink-washing has been used by Breast Cancer Action to describe the actions of companies which manufacture and use chemicals which show a link with breast cancer and at the same time publicly support charities focused on curing the disease. Other criticisms center on the marketing of “pink products” and tie ins, citing that more money is spent marketing these campaigns than is donated to the cause<

A closer look at the staggering stats about breast cancer reveal why this is an important cause to so many people.  According to the American Cancer Society, every 2 minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer — that’s everything from “stage zero” cancer (which some doctors believe shouldn’t even be called cancer) to the deadliest form: invasive breast cancer.

The cancer organization also estimates that 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States this year. And an estimated 2,350 new cases will be diagnosed in men.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, estimated that in 2012, around 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer in women occurred worldwide.

These numbers have influenced the need for early detection and screenings. According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 39 million mammograms are performed each year in the United States.

And those mammograms may have had an impact. The American Cancer Society reports that the breast cancer death rate is down 34% since 1990. As of Jan. 1, 2014, there were more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.

The World Cancer Research Fund International reports that there are more than 6 million breast cancer survivors worldwide, giving many survivors a reason to celebrate this month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease.

There are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year. Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in the developed and developing countries. In low- and middle-income countries the incidence has been rising up steadily in the last years due to increase in life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.

Currently there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer; therefore, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option. In such cases, palliative care to relief the suffering of patients and their families is needed.

The majority of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages due mainly to lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services. A situation that can be reverted if adequate public health programmes are put in place.

WHO promotes comprehensive breast cancer control programmes as part of national cancer control plans. The recommended early detection strategies for low- and middle-income countries are awareness of early signs and symptoms and screening by clinical breast examination in demonstration areas. Mammography screening is very costly and is feasible only in countries with good health infrastructure that can afford a long-term programme.

Kathy Kiefer

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