Breast Cancer Awareness and the Movement

Since 1991, the pink ribbon has been used to become a symbol for breast cancer awareness.  A symbol of the ribbon, and even the color pink itself, has been worn on clothing, used to represent different events, or even on the packaging of many consumer goods.  Though we all are familiar with what the ribbon represents, how familiar are we with the disease of breast cancer?  Do we even know how the breast cancer awareness movement began, or how that pink packaging relates to the movement itself? This will be a multi-post process starting with the disease onto the movement and ribbon, ending with “Think Before You Pink.”

According to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in American women (after only skin cancer).  Breast cancer is also the leading cause of death from cancer.  This year alone, approximately 200,000 women will be diagnosed, and 40,000 women will die (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/healthtopics/womens-health/breast-cancer-screenings-21189.htm). 

However staggering these statistics are, more than 9 out of 10 women who detect breast cancer early live at least 5 years (Planned Parenthood).  Breast exams are either performed by a health care provider (clinical breast exams) or by the woman herself (breast self-exams).  These examinations entail checking a woman’s breast for any changes and lumps.  They improve chances of detecting breast cancer early, and are important in establishing what is normal in order to note changes.  Women over forty years of age are currently encouraged to get mammograms.  The American Cancer Society recommends regular clinical breast exams every three years for women in their twenties and thirties.  Yearly exams are currently recommended for women over forty years of age. 

Some recent evidence has suggested that women may be delaying breast cancer screenings.  The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization states that many women are not following the recommended guidelines for mammography screenings (delay the first screening, not having the exam at the accepted intervals, or not receiving follow-up for positive results).  Such delays may lead to more advanced tumor size and cancer stage at the time of diagnosis, which determines the prognosis.

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