As we enter the fall months and begin looking forward to the Holiday season, we should not overlook October 1, 2021, the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The purpose of Breast Cancer Awareness Month has always been to educate everyone about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and the benefits of early detection. In addition to raising awareness, various events are held including walks/runs, sporting events, concerts, office dress down days, and so much more, to help raise money for breast cancer research and other related causes.
Every year since 1985, individuals throughout our nation have marked Breast Cancer Awareness Month in some way. The event originated through a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries. Shortly thereafter, Betty Ford, a breast cancer survivor and the First Lady to former President Gerald Ford, advanced the initiative by kicking off a week-long event bringing favorable press coverage and positive recognition to the cause.
So, what’s with all the pink, you ask? The first nationwide campaign for breast cancer awareness was held in 1990 during the “Race for the Cure.” Susan G. Komen, the founder of Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, was in attendance, handing out bright pink visors to breast cancer survivors. The following year, the Foundation distributed pink ribbons to every participant in the New York City Race for a Cure. The pink ribbon gained more widespread fame in early 1992 thanks to Estée Lauder cosmetics, when pink ribbons were displayed in stores and given to customers with an accompanied card describing a proper breast self-exam.
Fast forward to 2021, and what was once such a sparse and unheard of diagnosis, has now become the second most common cancer in women in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women. According to the American Cancer Society, incidence rates have increased by 0.5% per year. Since 2007, breast cancer death rates have been steady in women younger than 50, but have continued to decrease in older women. From 2013 to 2018, the death rate dropped by 1% per year. The decreases are believed to be the result of early detection through screening, increased awareness, and more effective treatments.
Currently, there are more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Over the past 36 years, the events related to Breast Cancer Awareness Month have largely impacted those suffering from breast cancer, evidenced by the decrease in mortality rates. It is imperative that individuals, corporations, and governmental entities participate in the initiative to heighten awareness, advance medical treatment initiatives, and continue the decrease in death rates.