Written by: Leong Cing Ee (BAC Apprentice)
Every Ribbon Makes a Difference
Every year in the month of October, we can see cities and businesses adding a little pink to their decor and themes – pink banners, pink t-shirts, pink food, and pink signs everywhere! Whilst pink is an attractive and beautiful colour, the real reason behind this “turn-pink” movement, is to raise awareness on breast cancer and to bring the public’s attention to the dangers of it. So, how much do you know about breast cancer? What can you do to show your support for this cause, this Pink October?
What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month dates back to October 1985, and is an annual international health campaign held every October to increase awareness as well as to raise funds for extensive research that looks at different aspects of breast cancer: diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and cure.
A pink ribbon is a symbolism of breast cancer awareness. According to the United Breast Cancer Foundation, the use of coloured ribbons for a cause, began in the nineteenth century. For instance, yellow ribbons were tied to trees to display support for loved ones in the military, and bright red ribbons were used as a symbol of AIDS awareness.
The use of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness was introduced by Charlotte Hayley, a breast cancer survivor. She attached a peach coloured ribbon to a card, with a message that urged the public to wear this ribbon as a prompt to raise awareness. Later, Alexandra Penny, editor-in-chief of Self magazine, came together with Evelyn Lauder, Vice-President of the Estee Lauder companies and a breast cancer survivor herself, to establish the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and officialise the pink ribbon as its symbol. In the year 1991, the pink ribbon became the international symbol for breast cancer awareness.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is the most common form of cancer affecting women in almost every country, including Malaysia. Hence, it is crucial for every woman to know how her breasts normally look and feel, so that any abnormalities or changes can be detected at an early stage.
Common signs of breast cancer may include:
- Lump in the breast or underarm
- Localised, persistent breast pain
- Swelling or thickening of all or part of the breast
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or shape of the breast
While it is important for women to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, they should still get regular mammograms and clinical breast examinations. These tests are more effective in detecting breast cancer and can even detect malignant cells before the individual experiences any symptoms.
Did You Know That Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too?
One of the most common myths or misconceptions about breast cancer is that this disease only affects women. While it is true that females are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, men can and do get this form of cancer as well. Many people often presume that men cannot get breast cancer simply because they do not have breasts. What they don’t realise is men have breast tissue which can develop into malignant cancer tissue, resulting in breast cancer. Although breast cancer is rarer in men as compared to women, men carry a higher mortality rate than women do. This is mainly due to a lack of awareness in breast cancer amongst men, which often leads to a delay in seeking treatment.
Increasing The Need to Raise Awareness and Educate The Public
According to GLOBOCAN 2020, female breast cancer has surpassed lung cancer as the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer worldwide, with an estimated 2.3 million new cases (11.7%), followed by lung cancer (11.4%), and colorectal cancer (10.0%).
Although abnormal malignant growth of breast cells often only occur among women after menopause, in recent times, breast cancer has become more frequent among young women. According to the Malaysian National Cancer Registry Report (MNCRR) 2012 – 2016, there has been a significant increase in cases of breast cancer, as compared to the 2007 – 2011 report. Disturbingly, the more recent report shows that the overall lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is one in 27 women. The incidence of breast cancer in Malaysia increases after the age of 25 years and peaks at 60 – 64 years old.
With these statistics, there is clearly an urgent need to raise awareness and to educate the public on breast cancer prevention measures. This will promote early detection of breast cancer through methods such as breast self-exam and regular mammograms.
Photo by World Health Organisation (WHO)
How can you show your support during this Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
To show your support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, do educate yourself on this topic. Be knowledgeable and aware of the signs and symptoms and the important information on how to prevent it. Next, spread the word about breast cancer and help raise awareness! Remember, this does not only extend to women, but men too. You could also wear a pink ribbon as a show of solidarity. Most importantly, encourage the women in your life to get regular mammograms, because the earlier breast cancer is detected and diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment.
With the significant increase in breast cancer diagnoses, we must come together and do our part to raise awareness and to disseminate knowledge about the preventive measures, because early detection and treatment is a fundamental step in fighting breast cancer. By doing your part in this effort of raising awareness and supporting this Pink October movement, you are making a significant difference in the lives of those who are battling breast cancer. Take part in supporting the Breast Cancer Awareness Movement, because every ribbon makes a difference.
This article is only meant to be a general write-up on breast cancer, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a doctor and seek proper medical assistance.