You’ve seen the pink ribbon before. It’s the international symbol for breast cancer awareness, going as far back as 1991 when the Susan G. Komen Foundation first handed them out to participants in a breast cancer survivors convention.
But did you know that peach almost became the color of the ribbon for the fight against the disease? A breast cancer survivor by the name of Charlotte Hayley decided to sell cards bearing peach-colored ribbons to promote awareness. The agenda caught the interest of cosmetic company Estee Lauder, but they wanted to change the peach ribbons to pink, thus going back to the original color first used in 1991. And ever since, it has been pink.
If the HIV awareness ribbon is red, the ribbon for breast cancer is pink. Pink suggests femininity, delicateness, the maternal instinct: an appropriate color indeed. It is the awareness of a disease that can take a life, if not radically alter a lifestyle. The pink is the awareness of a disease that doesn’t just disfigure women but also robs them of their inherent capacity to nourish their children.
Breast cancer, like all forms of cancer, is a traitor. It strikes when you’re not watching. This is why October has become the designated month for Breast Cancer Awareness, a time to raise consciousness among women (and not just women but everyone in general) about the disease. This is the time when the pink ribbons start coming out, delicately pink, but steadfast in mission.
The main goal is always to encourage women to get a mammogram and have themselves checked, something many women ignore. The alibis go from There’s always something more important to do, or That trip to the doctor can always wait, until it’s too late. What many people miss is that early detection is very important because time is always a factor in cancer. The chances of survival are greater when the disease is diagnosed properly and treatment is administered as soon as possible.
And all it takes is a simple non-invasive mammogram. A mammogram can be costly, but nowadays every health insurance company in the U.S. has been required by law to provide coverage for this procedure for their clients. Women with Medicare can avail of the procedure at a low-cost too, and some clinics offer absolutely free screening so there’s still no reason why women shouldn’t be able to find time to have themselves examined.
In the U.S. alone, for the year 2010, an estimated 207,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women, along with over 54,000 new cases of non-invasive cancer. These figures are significantly lower than in previous years, (2% from 1999 to 2006), and that’s a good thing.
It means the pink ribbons are working: people are getting aware that there is such a disease and that it can strike them (even males can be candidates ), but only if they allow it too. It means people are taking care of themselves more these days.
Finding out that you have breast cancer should not be the end of your life. Rather, it is only the beginning. This may sound clichd, but the statistics in survival from the disease is very hopeful. In 2010 the number of breast cancer survivors has reached more than 2.5 million, and it’s still on the rise.
Celebrities like musician Sheryl Crow, Golden Girl Rue McClanahan, pop star Kylie Minogue, actress Cynthia Nixon (of “Sex and the City”), Edie Falco (of “The Sopranos”), and Christina Applegate have all been diagnosed with the disease, battled it, and are now doing their part in promoting breast cancer awareness.