September 29, 2012

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is an annual international health campaign organized by the partnership of professional medical associations, government agencies, and public service organizations such as major breast cancer charities 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. It also has been instrumental in providing greater access to screening services.

Founded in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries, (now part of AstraZeneca, the maker of several anti-breast cancer drugs), National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been at the forefront of promoting awareness of breast cancer issues, and promoting mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. While there have been many great strides made in breast cancer awareness and treatment, there remains much to be accomplished.

Breast cancer affects everyone….men, women, children, any age, race, religion, economic bracket. As a child in elementary school, cancer was never a word that was even said out loud. I remember the first time I had even heard the words breast cancer. I was 9. A mother of a classmate of mine, who had been diagnosed with the disease, had taken her own life. It was a time when little was known of the disease. There were no organizations to help deal with the diagnosis and little was known of the treatment.

It took the courage of Former First Lady Betty Ford, a breast cancer survivor herself, to publically speak out about the disease in a televised emotional appeal to call attention to the importance of screening and awareness. Her 1974 mastectomy weeks after becoming First Lady, helped raise awareness for the disease. Her openness and willingness to talk about her disease raised visibility to a disease that America had been reluctant to talk about.

As First Lady, she knew that the experience she was going through would be news. Rather than shy away, she brought her plight public, knowing that by amplifying public awareness, she could help educate and save women from the disease. Breast cancer had now gone from being hush-hushed to a problem that needed to not only be talked about but solved. Women needed to become more aware, cures and preventions needed to be found. And women with the disease needed to have help understanding, dealing with, and support in fighting it.

Mrs. Ford became a pioneer in bringing the disease to the forefront. She pioneered the cause and soon after, other public figures, industry executives, government and community leaders, members of the media, philanthropic organizations, and many individual women further galvanized national public interest.

As we celebrate more than 25 years of awareness, let us take the time to thank those who have championed the cause. Let us thank businesses that give back to the cause and support them in their endeavors. Let us also remain dedicated to educate and empower women to take charge of their own breast health. Practice regular self-breast exams, schedule regular visits, and mammographies. For more information on Breast Cancer Awareness Month see http://www.nbcam.org.

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