Oped: The Pink Hue of Breast Cancer Awareness Month Educates and Inspires


October 2, 2019

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this year more people across the country are supporting women in the fight against breast cancer than ever before.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. Currently, the average risk of a woman developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 12 percent.

Everywhere you look, corporations, nonprofit organizations, even the National Football League, are working to raise awareness about the disease and reminding women about the importance of routine examinations that can save lives through early detection.

Yet, this was not always the case.

When my sister, Suzy Komen, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978, the stigmatized disease was seldom mentioned in public, let alone referenced by the news media. At that time there was an extremely limited understanding about the biology of breast cancer. Many believed it was a death sentence.

Having spent several decades involved in the evolution of cancer awareness, I have steadily witnessed increases in interest, advocacy, and the funding of initiatives related to reducing the burden of cancer in the United States and throughout the world. And I’m incredibly proud that it’s estimated today by the American Cancer Society that there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. This includes women still being treated and many others who have completed treatment.

Fortunately today for cancer survivors, along with increases in education and awareness have come new methods by which we endure the process of treatment itself. Healthcare providers and nonprofit organizations across the United States are now focusing on helping them to navigate the physical and emotional challenges that come with being a survivor.

Organizations such as The Promise Fund of Florida provide patients with access to expert navigators that are trained to deal with their cancer treatment plan, from screening and diagnosis through recovery. Ultimately, this approach will go a long way to address disparities that exist in cancer care and treatment. We’ll also be able to save lives at a lower cost to local communities.

It’s important to “think pink,” not only during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but year-round. There is a tremendous amount of innovation occurring not only in medicine but also in the manner in which we can deliver care to those who need it most.

To the one-in-eight women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and their families, the pink hue carries the potential to educate and inspire. It also provides hope and funding through advocacy that has helped achieve advances allowing today’s breast cancer survivors to live with rather than die from the disease, with the hope of one day preventing it altogether.

Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer charity, has served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary, U.S. chief of protocol, and as a Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control to the U.N.’s World Health Organization. She is continuing her work in efforts to end death from cancer.