National Breast Cancer Awareness Month's mission is to join with partnership organizations every year for a full month of programs and activities to raise awareness for breast health and screenings.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
- How Did Breast Cancer Awareness Month Get Started?
- When is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
- What Are the Colors of Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
- What Are Some Breast Cancer Awareness Month Activity Ideas?
Throughout that time, survivors, loved ones, and organizational groups gather in support of both women and men globally. Keep reading to find out when and how you can help National Breast Cancer Awareness Month through local and virtual activities.
What Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is when partnering organizations gather to build awareness, improve information, and promote breast screenings for breast cancer awareness. In this one month of increased advocacy, they can raise funds to support research and solicit greater awareness through NGOs, Congress, and the NIH.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is also when communities of survivors and loved ones join in grassroots activities worldwide, like the Susan G 3-Day walk, to raise money and support cancer detection and prevention. During these events, people gather in solidarity to share stories and victories with others.
How Did Breast Cancer Awareness Month Get Started?
The history of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes with both controversy and support. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a 1989 legacy program founded by AstraZeneca. But discussion followed when insiders exposed that the company conducted an internal fiscal study to resolve the program's cost against corporate best interests.
Long before the AstraZeneca designation for a Breast Cancer Awareness Month (pre-1980s), the American Cancer Society (ACS) advocated for breast self-exams (BSE), clinical breast exams (CBE), and mammograms. And throughout the years since, they’ve updated baseline monitoring to account for research and study achievements.
Still, many credit the support from former First Lady Betty Ford for this county’s improved breast cancer awareness. In 1974 when Mrs. Ford had a routine examination when doctors discovered a lump. Following her mastectomy, doctors attributed early detection for her subsequent favorable prognosis.
Afterward, Mrs. Ford and her daughter Susan Ford Bales appealed to the nation to improve women's equal rights, including increased breast health awareness and screenings. Their conversations started more conversations.
Subsequently, the media, nonprofits, executive, and community organizations, including AstraZeneca, spurred public interest. Women across the nation lined up at clinics and hospitals within a week, creating a nationwide conversation about women's breast health.
What didn't immediately pass in the government branches gained speed among the laypeople strata, developing a global voice for women.
Later, in 2009, several male breast cancer awareness groups aligned notable missions to support Male Breast Cancer Awareness during the 3rd Week of October to highlight that breast cancer also affects men.
Through the support of NGOs and the WHO, Breast Cancer Awareness now spans the globe by reaching communities in lower- and middle-income classes where insufficient knowledge and awareness currently maintain its prevalence.
When Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but advocacy for the disease continues throughout the year.
For each of the 31 days throughout October, there are specific activities you can complete, each associated with bridging healthcare gaps and supporting awareness globally.
What Are the Colors of Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
The history of the pink ribbon is also born of controversy among marketing and retails giants. No matter which organization uses the pink ribbon to improve donations or financial gain, people worldwide associate the bright pink ribbon color with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In 2009, the organizations that founded breast cancer awareness for men added blue to the original pink colors. For men experiencing breast cancer, this additional color choice gave them a voice.
What Are Some Breast Cancer Awareness Month Activity Ideas?
There are many ways to support cancer victims and families fighting breast cancer by joining in activities and getting involved with formidable organizations in October and throughout the year. Here’s how.
Make an American Cancer Society donation
The American Cancer Society has supported cancer detection since 1976, positioning them at the forefront of breast health monitoring and advocacy. By contributing to their organization, you’ll help fund:
- Grants for patient-focused research
- Institutional research
- Health equity in cancer control and analysis
- Improvements in policy
- Palliative care
- Inclusive, non-discriminatory, and improved access to healthcare
Donate cancer survivor books to an oncology ward
During a battle with cancer, patients and family members will need inspiration and hope during the darkest hours. So, donate some real-life stories of people battling cancer, their survival, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
These are just a few books about cancer from which to choose:
- Me, the Crazy Woman, and Breast Cancer: Strength and Inspiration for the Patient, Survivor, and Those Who Love Them by Stacy D. Shelton
- Tough: Women Who Have Survived Cancer by Marquina Iliev-Piselli
- Chris Beat Cancer: A Comprehensive Plan for Healing Naturally by Chris Wark
- Cancer Hates Kisses by Jessica Slivwerski
- My Faith Sparkles: Memoir of a Cancer Survivor by Amy Luscher Smith
Pro-tip: a few of these are breast cancer books, but consider the other patients in that waiting room, too. Something suitable for a child might help them manage the feelings they’re experiencing.
Ink a cancer memorial tattoo
Tattoos are a great way to celebrate strength and courage, so commemorate beating cancer and kicking it to the curb with a tattoo. Not sure what to choose?
Choose anything that reminds you of loved ones or a mantra, a song, or any saying that got you through the journey. You could even pick something that reminds you of the days of recovery—perhaps a bird that visited your window or flowers sent to you by a loved one would work.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong when choosing a tattoo. All it has to do is speak to you and of your journey or that of a loved one. You can choose whatever a cancer memorial tattoo means to you.
Watch movies about breast cancer with your community.
If you have the chance to gather friends over for a movie night (or a virtual movie night), choose an appropriate movie about breast cancer and then have a discussion.
Here are some uplifting movies we’ve found:
- The Long Goodbye
- Mondays at Racine
- Ma Ma
For those seeking a Spanish-language film, Ma-Ma is a fascinating, avant-garde look at breast cancer. Actress Penelope Cruz will invite you to learn about living life to its fullest—and from an interesting perspective.
Donate clothes to a chemotherapy center
Cancer treatment, radiation, chemotherapy, and any other form of treatment often make people feel cold. And since anyone can be diagnosed with breast cancer, try to include hats and scarves suitable to any preference. Blankets work, too. Just contact the oncology center nearest you and ask about what’s needed the most at that time.
Start a cancer blog
Whether you’re a survivor or someone that wants to pay homage to a loved one, a cancer blog offers a beautiful opportunity to help others by using your own experiences. Another benefit to sharing the stories you’ll gain is the catharsis through writing.
Reliving the pain and struggle isn’t easy, but many will benefit from what you have to say, and perhaps you’ll give them strength when they need it most.
Not sure how to start a blog? Here are a few quick steps:
- Choose a hosting site and sign up. Some are free, while others have a monthly fee.
- Pick a name for your blog, and this will give you a personal URL.
- Add a theme. (Don’t worry, you can change this down the road as you like.)
- Write content, attach personal photos—use anything you think is useful.
When you’re ready to go live with your site, share it with friends and family. Embrace and find comfort in the work that follows.
Fundraise for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60-Mile Walk
If you’ve ever seen droves of people wearing wild pink outfits walking around your neighborhood, then you’ve seen a Susan G. event. Currently, each participant must raise $2300 to join in the event.
Participants choose a hotel-based or camping-based sleepover at night, but during the day, fundraisers are supported by:
- Volunteers at stands with food and water
- Medical professionals when needed
- Volunteers to support you in crosswalks, along roadsides, or at camps
If you can participate, you’ll create a network of life-long friendships as you walk and chat with people who are there as survivors or to support family and friends.
If you’re unable to join, sponsorships are welcome.
Pro-tip: search the Susan G. Komen website for training support and other information needed to prepare for the 60-mile journey.
Love and Support During Breast Cancer Awareness Month
There are many more ways to offer love and support for family and friends during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including meal trains and offering emotional support.
If you have a friend or loved one experiencing difficulties during this time, check out our JoinCake Blog for helpful resources and advice.
- “Apply for a Research Grant.” American Cancer Society, Cancer.org, n.d., www.cancer.org/research/we-fund-cancer-research/apply-research-grant.html
- “Be positive, be well.” Male Breast Cancer, Male Breast Cancer, ca., N.d., www.malebreastcancer.ca
- “Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.” World Health Organization, WHO, 16 October 2012, www.who.int/cancer/events/breast_cancer_month/en
- Fernandez, Sandy. “History of the Pink Ribbon.” Think Before You Pink, Think Before You Pink, n.d., www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org/resources/history-of-the-pink-ribbon
- “Male breast cancer awareness week campaign.” Out of the Shadow of Pink, Out of the Shadow of Pink, www.outoftheshadowofpink.com/Male-Breast-Cancer-Awareness-Week-Campaign.html
- “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” AstraZeneca US, AstraZeneca US, n.d., www.astrazeneca-us.com/sustainability/healthcare-foundation/national-breast-cancer-awareness-month-.html