As I’m sure you all know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. You can’t help but notice the pink ribbons and merchandise everywhere. And for good reason: according to the American Cancer Society breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women (skin cancer is first). There are also more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
I feel pretty confident saying we are all aware the disease exists, and most of us probably know someone who has battled, or is still battling the disease. For me, it’s my sister. What I think we could have a better understanding of, is how to take action, beyond buying a pink ribbon sweatshirt or pin.
Taking Action, Step One: Learn More About Breast Cancer & Early Detection*
To start, it’s helpful to know more about breast cancer: specifically how it’s detected, diagnosed and treated. The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a great resource for this. If you’re a woman reading this (which 99% of you are) don’t dive into the details without also reading the ACS Recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer. Breast cancer that’s found early, when it’s small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully. Getting regular screening tests is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early.
If you have a family history of cancer your screening process may look a little different than someone with average risk. Ellie Ander, the mom behind our sister site, Chicago North Shore Moms, recently shared how breast cancer has impacted her family and why, as a carrier of the BRCA gene, she chose to have a preventive double mastectomy and oophorectomy. Read her story here.
Taking Action, Step Two: Donate to Research Organizations
Most women (and men) diagnosed with breast cancer want to be “cured.” In the case of cancer that is referred to as being in remission or having no evidence of disease (NED). The treatments that get patients to remission or NED come from research. Research is funded in many ways, and one of those is donations from the public. If you feel inclined to donate to a breast cancer charity this month, please do your research before pledging your dollars. (Two groups that evaluate charities based on their financial statements, tax reports, program expenses and fundraising costs would be The American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Watch and Charity Navigator.)
Some charities focused on research:
Breast Cancer Research Foundation – This is the highest rated breast cancer charity by Charity Watch. Their mission is to prevent and cure breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research. They are funding nearly 275 researchers across 14 countries and 5 continents. And during October every dollar you donate will be matched up to $100,000.
National Breast Cancer Coalition – NBCC is a grassroots advocacy organization that has set a deadline to know how to end breast cancer by January 1, 2020. They are also currently one of the biggest advocates of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act. Also highly rated by Charity Watch.
METAvivor – METAvivor is dedicated to the specific fight of women and men living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. There is currently no cure for metastatic breast cancer. 30% of all breast cancer patients will reach stage 4, but only 2-5% of research funding goes to metastatic breast cancer. METAvivor is run by volunteers and funded by corporate sponsorship so 100% of every donation and 100% of proceeds from every fundraiser (after event expenses) goes into their research grants. Highly rated by Charity Navigator.
American Cancer Society – I’ve already mentioned them several times, but this is the link to their donation page. And here you can find some of their Breast Cancer Research Highlights, including that to date they have funded 162 grants for breast cancer research in the amount of $67 million dollars. You can also donate to their Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks, held nationwide. I will note that Charity Navigator does not rate the ACS as highly as the first three charities listed due to higher fundraising costs and executive compensation.
Taking Action, Step Three: Social Media
Another free way to support breast cancer research organizations is to follow them on social media. By liking their pages and posts, as well as commenting and sharing their posts, you are helping to expand the reach of their mission and introduce their goals to people who follow you and may have not otherwise been aware of these organizations.
Some to follow (Instagram/Facebook/Twitter):
Metavivor: @metavivor / @metavivor / @metavivor
Breast Cancer Research Foundation: @bcrfcure / @TheBreastCancerResearchFoundation / @BCRFcure
National Breast Cancer Coalition: @deadline2020 / @Deadline2020 / @Deadline2020
American Cancer Society: @americancancersociety / @AmericanCancer or @Strides / @americancancer
You can also support METAvivor by nominating your friends and followers to join the #KissThis4MBC viral campaign. To participate, follow the @KissThis4MBC Instagram account and post a Boomerang or selfie with the hashtag #KissThis4MBC and tag @KissThis4MBC. For each person who posts, Novartis will donate $20 to Metastatic Breast Cancer Research, up to $250,000. Runs through November 30.
Taking Action, Step Four: Support a Survivor
The last, and perhaps most important thing you can do, is to provide love, encouragement and support to anyone in your life who is battling cancer. When a person is first diagnosed, they often receive an outpouring of support and people offering to help. This is wonderful and necessary! But cancer treatment can last a long time, so don’t forget to check in with the patient and extend those same offers of help months or even years down the line.
You can also support survivors in their entrepreneurial efforts. These are three small businesses that were founded by survivors based on their experiences with breast cancer treatment.
Salty Girl Beauty – This clean beauty brand was founded by breast cancer survivor Sarah, and her sister Leah, an oncology nurse. After Sarah lost all her hair during chemotherapy she discovered the self-confidence boost she got from lipstick and Salty Girl Beauty was born. This brand is special to me due to their Lip Gloss Heroes Program. These glosses were launched this summer and one of them is named after my sister, Katherine. The Salty Girl sisters, along with their two other siblings, also run the Foundation4Love and with Cynthia Bestemen (the next businesswoman highlighted), the Warrior Revolution.
Violets are Blue – This natural skincare line was started by breast cancer survivor, Cynthia Besteman. In addition to developing skincare products, Cynthia provides patients at the Mt. Sinai Dubin Breast Center in NYC with a gifted package of Violets are Blue products upon their first day of chemotherapy. 10% of the purchase price of all products goes toward skincare donations for cancer patients.
Daily Greens – Shauna Martin founded Daily Greens after discovering her passion for green juice and its benefits following her battle with breast cancer as a young mom. Daily Greens take 100% organic vegetables grown by farmers they know and cold press them into delicious green juices and kid-friendly smoothies. A portion of sales are donated to the Young Survivor Coalition. Daily Greens can be found at several locations in and around the North Shore.
Thank you for reading these ideas on how to take action. Please continue to wear your pink ribbons with pride, but know that buying pink products is not the only way to support the fight for a cure to breast cancer this month.
*It should be noted that I’m not a doctor or healthcare professional of any kind. If you have any questions about your own health please call your doctor or healthcare professional.