Think and wear pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

October 9, 2012

The month of October now owns the color pink. And well it should, since October has adopted the color to symbolize it as the designated National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer strikes at the very fabric of our society, the women: mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and friends. Yes, men also are diagnosed with breast cancer, but the numbers are considerably less than the female population. We mainly think of it as a women’s disease.

You may have heard of Susan G. Komen. Her name is used on many of the fundraising events, and there is the well-known Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Her sister, Nancy Brinker, promised the dying Susan in 1982 that she would do all in her power to find a cure for breast cancer. And with the tragic death of this young woman, the Susan G. Komen foundation launched a massive global effort of education, raising awareness of the disease and helping to fund all avenues that would lead to a cure.

I don’t speak lightly of this breast cancer onslaught on women, being a breast cancer survivor myself. I could tell you statistically, 1 in 8 women in the United States, according the foundation, will develop invasive breast cancer. And in 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of this type of breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed, along with 57,650 cases of non-invasive breast cancer.

But statistics are hard to wrap your head around sometimes. After a while they become just numbers. Real faces are harder to forget. Real stories are kept within our hearts. One has to only tour a cancer facility to form a more intimate portrait of this ongoing challenge.

I never thought about breast cancer; after all I didn’t fit the traditional profile for this disease. I had no family history, no lumps and had a mammogram every year since I could remember. And yet one day, like any other day, there it was pushing its way onto a mammogram.

Statistics really become important when this unwanted relative first threatens to make its appearance in the form of therapy. Breast cancer is the division of cells and growth without normal controls. This can happen in the ducts, which is the largest percentage of breast cancers, or in the lobules, the smallest percentage of breast cancers; there are a few other areas where these abnormal cells can occur. Invasive breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in these areas break out into nearby breast tissue.

The two types of breast cancer we are most familiar with are non-invasive and invasive. The non-invasive are abnormal cells in the ducts, or you may see it written as ductal carcinoma in situ. The invasive breast cancer is in the lobules. The data is from the Susan G. Komen site and is the simplest in terms of an explanation.

Women through history are known as survivors. They’ve faced tremendous odds to overcome their circumstances, and in some parts of the world still struggle to deal with prejudice, ignorance and bias.

Breast cancer is a different enemy, one you can’t reason with, rationalize away or seek justice from. It doesn’t care about age or circumstances. And yet, women don’t go down with the ship on this one. Every year the odds get better with early diagnosis, such as mammograms and early interventional treatments.

So get involved this month. Most of the shopping outlets and stores donate part of their sales this month to breast cancer. And Dewey Beach is having a great outdoor race for the cure.

Think and wear pink, and you will be helping women everywhere. After all, it is estimated that in 2011, there were 2.6 million breast cancer survivors. We can make it happen.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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