Go beyond pink to fight breast cancer

If you didn’t know that October is designated as breast cancer awareness month, the slew of pink mixing in with fall colors may help you figure it out. And while it’s important to raise awareness of a cancer that affects one in eight women, it’s equally important to take action beyond wearing pink. Keep reading to learn some tips for how you can go beyond pink to fight breast cancer.

A mammogram saved my life. Schedule yours today!

It’s a novel idea to wear pink to raise awareness of breast cancer. With so much ‘noise’ in our society, especially now, these special awareness months do help bring attention to causes. And there is no doubt that we need to put energy and resources into fighting this disease. [Read my post about simple ways to make a difference as an advocate.] But it needs to be for resources and actions that truly make a difference in fighting breast cancer.

I do urge caution in getting sucked into the pink passion. Because fighting and overcoming breast cancer takes much more effort than simply encouraging people to wear pink. It takes action. From preventive screenings to funding for research to ensuring affordable access to care to helpful resources to support cancer survivors, these are the critical areas that need attention. Not just during breast cancer awareness month in October. Every day of the year. [Read my post for four ways to fight breast cancer.]

I am more than a pink ribbon

I am fortunate that I had access to a 3D screening mammogram. It saved my life when a suspicious shadow appeared in my imaging. More imaging, an ultrasound and biopsy later, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. A lumpectomy removed the small mass and two lymph nodes, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Since then, my ovaries were removed to lower hormone levels and I take a daily estrogen inhibitor for 4-5 more years. Despite clearing the cancer and finishing treatment, side effects from treatment continue to pop up.

I’m fortunate to have a great care team who are on top of these things. Overall, I’m blessed to be alive and enjoying a good quality of life. Needless to say, it’s been a journey. I’m grateful for all of the efforts put worth to fight this cancer.

Here are some ways to go beyond pink to fight breast cancer:

Donate to causes that directly support those affected by cancer.

There are a lot of great ways to support charities, whether participating in an event, purchasing an item, buying a raffle ticket, etc. Giving directly to a charity is often the best way to make a great impact. There are many organizations that support cancer survivors in some way, especially breast cancer survivors. I recommend doing a bit of a background check on a charity to learn what services they offer/how they support cancer survivors and what percentage of donations go to direct programs/services. Make sure it resonates with you and the impact that you want to provide.

Get screened.

Research has made great strides over the past few decades in cancer detection tests. Mammograms continue to be a great screening option. As I mentioned above, a mammogram saved my life. The Covid pandemic has caused a drop in cancer screenings over the past year, raising much concern about cancers being detected at later stages, etc. Please don’t delay your mammogram or other cancer screenings! These tests can catch precancerous lesions or early stage cancers.

Take action to make cancer screenings available to everyone.

Many insurance programs cover screening mammograms, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act. However, not all Americans are insured or have access to affordable, quality insurance coverage. Making these types of screenings available to all Americans is important to ensuring good quality of life for our society and even lowering healthcare costs across the board. The reality is that it’s much cheaper to prevent cancer or catch it early than to treat at a more advanced stage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer many cancer programs that include breast, cervical, colorectal and other cancer screenings at no or low cost to under-insured Americans. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program is one such program available to women with low incomes who are uninsured or underinsured. Becoming a cancer advocate, reaching out to elected officials to ensure cancer-fighting legislation is a priority and continuing to raise awareness of the needs of cancer survivors are all important ways to fight cancer. [Read my post about simple ways to help cancer care access.]

Wear a mask.

Covid is contagious, cancer is not. But Covid can cause severe side effects or death in cancer survivors, especially those in treatment with a compromised immune system. Or people like me who have a strong immune system but need to protect our heart, lungs and other organs from Covid (these organs are at high risk due to heavy doses of chemo and radiation). Stopping the spread of Covid is also important so people can get appointments for screenings, follow up tests, treatment and more. If you do nothing else to help stop the spread of this virus, please wear a mask. If not for yourself, then think of others. You could save life, like mine. Thank you.

Encourage your male friends to be aware of their risk.

Men have breasts too, which means they are at risk for breast cancer. While it’s less common for men, it’s estimated about 2,650 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2021. It’s important to pay attention to changes in the breast area, including lumps, swelling in the nipples, etc. Don’t dismiss these changes or concerns, be embarrassed to talk to your doctor or think men can’t get breast cancer.

These are just a few ways to go beyond pink to fight breast cancer in October and after. Another important thing is not to take your health for granted, folks. You get one body. Take care of it. Honor it. Keep it healthy. Cheers to living a long, healthy life! Now go scheduled that screening!

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