Things You Can Do To Raise Awareness Of Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) is an international awareness month to raise global attention and generate support for breast cancer patients and survivors. In this issue of HealthNews, we shed light on what you can do to raise awareness of breast cancer beyond donning the pink ribbon.

During October, also known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), many will be wearing pink ribbons to show their support for breast cancer patients and survivors, but do you know how ribbons came to symbolise various causes?

The history of wearing ribbons to support a cause can be traced back to a 1973 hit song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree”, which inspired the Vietnam prisoners of war to do exactly that. Soon enough, people were tying yellow ribbons around trees for the American hostages in Iran in 1979, which later inspired advocates to create a red ribbon to raise awareness about Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Shortly after, Charlotte Haley created a pink ribbon to raise awareness about breast cancer – the disease that her grandmother, sister and daughter had. However, it was Susan G. Komen who helped popularise the pink ribbon that we know of today.

What can you do to raise awareness of breast cancer?

Raising awareness of breast cancer is more than just wearing a pink ribbon during BCAM; it is also about education, reducing stigma, advocating for primary prevention, and supporting organisations that support the cause.

  1. Education

    At the individual level, it is important to educate yourself and achieve adequate breast-health awareness. This includes learning about the risk factors of breast cancer so that you can improve your health behaviours and reduce your risk. Such factors include1:

    • Family history
    • Certain inherited genes
    • History of malignant or benign (non-cancerous) breast disease
    • Early onset of menstruation
    • Late menopause
    • Having first child after the age of 35
    • Having fewer children or never had children
    • Being on hormone replacement therapy
    • Drinking too much alcohol
    • Being overweight or obese

    Besides the risk factors of breast cancer, it is also important to be aware of specific breast cancer symptoms. To recognise them, individuals should learn how to conduct a monthly breast self-examination (BSE) and know when to visit a healthcare provider for a check up.

    Women over the age of 40 should start going for yearly mammogram screenings while those with a family history of breast cancer should begin screening earlier2. Although mammograms are not routinely offered to men, your doctor may recommend regular screening tests and follow-ups if you have a family history of breast cancer or an inherited genetic mutation that increases your risk of male breast cancer.

  2. Reducing stigma

    Cancer is often shrouded in stigma; it starts even before one is diagnosed with cancer and continues even after one is declared cancer-free. Stigma surrounding breast cancer often arises due to fear, misinformation, or misconceptions of breast cancer. In order to combat stigma, we have to spread awareness and normalise clinical assessments, breast cancer screening, and treatment therapies.

    After achieving adequate breast-health awareness, we can then educate others and improve knowledge about breast cancer, which includes risk factors and symptoms. This will help normalise going for early detection programmes and breast cancer screening, and eventually eradicate the stigma associated with cancer.

  3. Supporting organisations that support the cause

    During BCAM, the pink ribbon will be ubiquitous. In fact, the colour pink has come to be associated with BCAM and many companies and organisations have been promoting pink products in support of the cause.

    Although this is great for raising awareness, many companies have been accused of “pinkwashing”–a term coined by Breast Cancer Action that illustrates how certain organisations claim to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produce, manufacture, or sell products containing chemicals that are implicated in the disease.

    Many organisations also use the colour pink to market their product for profit instead of using pink as an effective fundraising approach for breast cancer. Thus, we need to be wary of such organisations and only support those that contribute substantially to research as well as non-profit organisations.

    Alternatively, we can support small businesses run by breast cancer survivors or donate directly to esteemed cancer research organisations and non-profit breast cancer organisations, such as the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF). You can also donate to BCF at Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) clinics as PCC places a BCF donation box in all of their clinics during the month of October.

Making a difference

Everybody has the ability to make a difference – even by doing something small like wearing a pink ribbon to raise awareness during BCAM. As an individual, it is important to do what you can to raise awareness of breast cancer. Your efforts will not only help reduce the stigma surrounding breast cancer, but also help promote breast-health awareness amongst those around you.

1 “Breast Cancer”. PCC.
2 “Male vs Female Breast Cancer: What is the Difference?”. PCC, 2022.
TAGS breast cancer, cancer awareness