Awareness is the Beginning…

During the month of October, the nation becomes awash in a sea of pink. The American Cancer Society sponsors the Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October.

Beginning in 1985, the American Cancer Society partnered with Imperial Chemical Industries—which is now part of Astra Zeneca—to begin this annual month of activities designed to increase awareness of breast cancer signs and symptoms. Ultimately, this awareness has increased the national rates of testing in the form of self-examinations, physician consultations and mammograms. This is exactly what it was intended to do, with a long-term goal of decreasing mortality rates.

Beginning around the year 2000, the mortality rates from breast cancer began a slow but steady decline, and have continued ever since. This decrease does coincide with a national decrease in the use of hormone replacement therapies (HRT), which has been shown to increase breast cancer risk, and likely is responsible for some of the decrease in breast cancer rates as well.

Awareness, however, is the focus this October, as it is every October. And awareness, as we all know, is the first step in solving any problem.

This campaign has been successful in instilling such awareness in women. While not near as common, breast cancer is also a risk for men. Throughout a man’s lifetime, he carries a 1/1000 risk of developing breast cancer, while women carry a 1/8 risk, which translates into 12% of women developing breast cancer during their lifetime.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) supports any and all activities that increase awareness of any kind of cancer risk. Many other forms of cancer are highlighted throughout the year with awareness activities designated during specific months each year. While ACS does not officially coordinate all efforts and activities, many more cancers are publicized in hopes of increasing awareness, just as breast cancer is highlighted during the month of October.

Each year brings various monthly activities to increase awareness of various cancers and illnesses. An asterisk (*) follows the activities that are sponsored by the American Cancer Society:

Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Awareness Weekend*
Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Challenge*
Healthy Weight Week
National Cervical Health Awareness Month

National Cancer Prevention Month
World Cancer Day—Thursday, February 4th

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
International Women’s Day—Monday, March 7th
Kick Butts Day—March 18th (non-smoking campaign)
National Nutrition Month

National Cancer Control Month
National Minority Cancer Awareness Week
National Minority Health Month
National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week
National Volunteer Week
Testicular Cancer Awareness Month
World Health Day—April 7th

Brain Tumor Awareness Month
Cancer Research Month
Don’t Fry Day—May 27nd*
Melanoma Monday—May 2nd
National Women’s Check-up Day—May 9th
National Women’s Health Week
Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month
World No Tobacco Day—May 31st

Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Invitational*
Men’s Health/Cancer Awareness Month
National Cancer Survivor’s Day—June 7th
National Men’s Health Week

UV Safety Month

Summer Sun Safety Month

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month
Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month
National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
National Prostate Awareness Month
Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day—typically the last week in September
Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month*
National Mammography Day—October 16th*
American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events*

Coaches vs. Cancer Classic*
Great American Smokeout—November 19th*
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
National Family Caregiver Month
Neuroendocrine Tumor Day
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

No events scheduled

Again, awareness is key. No problem can be effectively solved unless the people involved are aware of the situation. The same can be said for any health concern or illness. The American Cancer Society is the official sponsor for those events that are marked with an asterisk (*), but they do support any positive strides toward increased awareness of any cancers, illnesses or health-related needs in our society.

There are many more illnesses that are not recognized in this list. It is important to see the human body as a whole, and to stay in tune with all health aspects that are not listed, such as heart health. Cardiac disease is one such illness that continues to claim far too many lives in the United States. While great strides have been made, mental illness remains a subject that too few people are willing to openly address, so the stigma continues. Such illnesses affect the function of many adults and children, contributing to decreased overall societal wellness.

In addition, prevention is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Many elements of modern American lifestyle pose risks for most of us, such as sedentary habits, poor dietary intake, lack of sleep, excess stress, too much sun, overindulgence in alcohol and using illegal drugs.

The primary objective of these awareness campaigns is to increase early detection of cancers, thus decreasing the negative health consequences and increasing the survival rate, as well as improving the quality of life for the survivors. The power of the human group is evident throughout such campaigns as well. When people band together for a cause, each person is empowered by the others, and gains strength. These awareness activities foster such feelings of like-mindedness.

No matter what the problem, whether it be a health issue or any problem faced by any person, complete awareness of the facts by all parties involved will certainly facilitate solutions.

October is a good month to increase your awareness of early detection of any disease, breast cancer or otherwise. Taking steps to make sure your health is as good as it can be is always a good idea, but especially right now, you are in good company.