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
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.
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. All of these things can help a person with breast cancer through a trying time, both emotionally and physically.
Charities that focus on patient support include:
You can also reach out to resources in your geographic area, as many local organizations provide direct support to those in need, but don’t have a national presence. A social worker or patient navigator at a hospital or clinic near you can help you identify local resources.
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.
Most of the charitable money goes to basic research with little clinical application. So, when you’re looking for charities to donate to, it’s important to find ones that are trying to get an actual cure to patients and not just giving lip service to the idea of “awareness.”
You can also use the Charity Navigator website to search for and donate to breast cancer charities. This website rates charities based on their use of funds, efficiency, and impact.
“Let me know if I can do anything for you.” Most of us with cancer hear that phrase often … and then never see that person again. The longer we’re on treatment, the more we need help. We need our dogs walked, we need our kids to be driven somewhere, we need our bathrooms cleaned.
So, if you know somebody who has cancer, don’t ask how you can help. Tell them how you plan to. Don’t put the burden of asking for help on the cancer patient.
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.
Talk with the staff at the front desk of your local hospital’s breast cancer ward or chemotherapy center and ask if they’re willing to accept items.
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.
You could also call a social worker to determine where the need is greatest.
Writing cards and leaving them at chemo centers or hospital wards for cancer patients on holidays can be meaningful for somebody going through the most frightening time of their life. Let them know you care and are thinking about them.
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.
Necessary pain medications are now withheld (even from terminal patients) because doctors fear “overprescribing.” Some anti-nausea meds are too expensive and some insurance companies won’t allow them. For many people, this can mean pain near the end of their lives. We need that to change.
Remember that when you speak with a cancer patient, they don’t necessarily feel like warriors or survivors; they don’t always want (or need) to have a positive attitude. And nothing they did, from eating sugar to consuming processed foods, caused their cancer.
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.
It’s important that you speak with them as the friends, colleagues, or loved ones they’ve always been. Cancer can be isolating, but you can be that reassuring figure who reminds them that they don’t always have to pretend to be brave.
A mammogram is a type of X-ray that can help detect breast cancer. These images may find breast cancer up to
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.
Another option is the
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.
One example is the Race for the Cure from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which has multiple races across the country. When you participate in Race for the Cure, you can also form your own team to raise donations together.
Can’t make it to a local race? You can still donate money to participating teams of your choosing to help support the cause.
Pink October has become almost a national holiday, with pink promotions everywhere. However, the money donated by companies often doesn’t go where it’s needed most: to metastatic cancer patients. Incurable cancer patients are your mothers, your sisters, and your grandmothers, and they need your support.
In considering this need, you may consider launching 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.
No matter what you choose, the benefit of launching your own donation drive is that you can ensure that 100% of the proceeds go toward your community, or to a reputable organization that supports metastatic cancer patients, such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation or the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
After every October, it can feel like there’s a lack of attention spent on breast cancer research and education. The truth is that new research findings, possible treatments, and clinical trial enrollments occur year-round.
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.