This Article was written by Zanelle Awinyo, Year 9
Last week, we all came to school dressed in pink. And if you haven't done so yourself; you might have noticed other people wearing pink ribbons throughout the month (or year) as well. So why do we do it?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. All over the world, thousands of people take part in National Breast Cancer Awareness month: schools, sports teams, and even businesses wear pink clothes and ribbons to show their support.
But why do we wear pink?
Breast Cancer Awareness Month started as an effort to gain funding for research into the cancer and raise awareness of the cause. In 1990, the first breast cancer survivor programme was launched at the 'Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure' event in Washington D.C. Pink was its signature colour. Later that year, pink buttons were made for a race which started wearing coloured clothing to raise awareness. At the next race, pink ribbons were distributed to all breast cancer survivors and race participants.
In 1992, Self Magazine teamed up with cosmetic companies to distribute pink ribbons in New York City stores throughout October. Since the popularity of this initiative was so overwhelming, the pink ribbon idea has grown. Now, people will wear pink shirts, pink socks, pink scarves and other pink accessories to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
One woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes.
Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the United States alone - it is one of the most common types of cancer. Because it’s such a widespread disease affecting many lives, it’s important to learn about it and spread awareness, not to mention show our support to people suffering or those affected by breast cancer.
In women, it is the most common cancer; however, breast cancer has an 84-99% survival rate because of early detection and treatment. 95% of those affected are women over the age of 40 - therefore it is advisable for all women starting from their mid-thirties to go to yearly screenings.
Breast cancer is not only diagnosed in women. Although it might not be as often, men can also be diagnosed.
What exactly is breast cancer?
The cells in your body divide regularly in a set sequence known as the cell cycle. A tumour forms when control of this sequence is lost and the cells grow in an abnormal, uncontrollable way.
A tumour can be 'malignant', which means it is cancerous, or 'benign,' which means non-cancerous. Benign tumours stay in one place and don’t travel around the body, so usually, patients undergo surgery to remove them. A malignant tumour can spread around the body, invading neighbouring healthy tissues - which is what we classify as cancer. Since they travel around the body and divide really quickly, it is essential to detect them at an early stage in order to have the highest chance of survival.
Breast Cancer death rates had declined by 40% from 1989 to 2016, which brought improvements in early detection of the illness. The later the cancer stage, the lower the survival rate. Since cancer can be defeated in its early stages, having an awareness month each year is beneficial for people to know the symptoms and when they need to get checked.
Common symptoms of the cancer would be:
Having a lump on the breast or armpit
Thickening or swelling on part of the breast
Irritation or dimpling of breast skin and redness or flaky skin in the nipple or breast area.
Remember; breast cancer mostly affects people in their 40s and 50s, and it is rare that a case would be diagnosed in younger people. In the case you had all the symptoms, you’d get a mammogram which is an X-ray picture of the breasts that would reveal early signs of the cancer. Some of the most common treatments used in treating the cancer are through surgery or chemotherapy, where they use special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer cells.
Although cancer is generally linked with terminal illnesses, breast cancer has a 100% survival rate if detected early. There are many survivors of breast cancer and it’s solely because they were aware of the symptoms. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not only about spreading information; it’s also there to empower people who’ve battled this cancer and spread positivity.