This year, let's move from awareness to ACTIVATION!
Most people have good intentions when Pink October rolls around. They truly want to do something to help cure breast cancer — a disease that is estimated to cause 43,250 deathsTrusted Source in the United States in 2022. Breast cancer is also the leading cancer worldwide, accounting for approximately 685,000 deaths in 2020.
The truth is, thanks to efforts made over the last 40 years, pretty much every American over the age of 6 is likely already aware of breast cancer. And unfortunately, early detection and awareness are not the cure-alls we once thought back when the pink ribbon was invented.
Many women will be diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer, get treated, and then still go on to have a metastatic relapse. During this stage, treatments are less likely to work and women are more likely to succumb to the disease.
This is why we should start focusing our efforts on helping people who have advanced breast cancer. This goes beyond buying pink T-shirts or ribbons or reminding women to get checked.
In this article, we provide 12 actionable things you can do during breast cancer awareness month, to support people living with breast cancer and those working on a cure.
1. Focus on support, rather than awareness
When picking a charity, make sure its focus is on patient support, not awareness. Patient support comes in many forms: from makeup classes, gas cards, and wigs, to exercise classes, and even full payment of treatment.
2. Donate to research initiatives
Research is critical. Globally, metastatic breast cancer receives much less funding than early-stage breast cancer, even though it’s the only form of breast cancer that you can actually die of.
3. Help out someone you know who has cancer
“Let me know if I can do anything for you.” Most of women with cancer hear that phrase often … and then never see that person again. The longer the treatment, the more the need for help: dogs walked, kids to be driven somewhere, bathrooms cleaned.
4. Donate clothes to a chemo center
Did you know you can make a difference in a cancer patient’s life without even ever speaking to them? In every town, there are community oncologists who will accept donations of blankets, hats, or scarves.
5. Drive people to chemo sessions
There are many patients getting chemo who have nobody to drive them. You can leave flyers offering to do so, or post on community bulletin boards that you’re willing to help.
7. Write your congressperson
Over the past decade, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has cut funding for cancer research. Changes in healthcare laws have created confusion, and it’s becoming harder for people with cancer to get medications, whether it be chemo or supportive medications.
8. Listen to cancer patients
When somebody trusts you enough to tell you they have cancer, don’t respond by telling them they’re a warrior or insinuate that they did something wrong. Just tell them that you’re sorry this happened to them and that you’re here to listen.
And let them know that you’re available now or at any time in the future to talk or to help provide distraction when they want to take their mind off of things.
9. Spread the word about free mammograms
If you or a loved one needs a mammogram but are uninsured, there are likely free or discounted mammogram programs in your area during the month of October. Clinics or private practitioners may offer these. It’s important to inform others about these programs once they are announced.
10. Participate in a run or walk
Throughout the month of October, you may find designated runs or walks where you can symbolically show your support for breast cancer awareness while also raising money for charity.
11. Launch your own donation drive
You can raise money through traditional ideas, such as bake sales or car washes, or even consider sticking with the recognizable pink theme and launching a pink pumpkin contest at your place of work.
12. Continue to educate yourself and others
Make it a point to check in with your favorite charity or organization for the latest information related to breast cancer — you can even set a reminder for yourself weekly, monthly, or as often as you’d like.
So, this year we shift from Awareness to ACTIVATION!