Really real breast cancer awareness

Breast cancer awareness.

What does that mean? Who isn’t aware of breast cancer? It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the world. I think we’re all pretty aware. Yet there’s plenty of education that needs to take place. What is your real awareness?

Are you aware that more than 12,000 women under the age of 40 will hear, “You have breast cancer” this year? And that number will increase by 3.1% every year.

Are you aware that at least five new genes have been discovered that, when mutated, can double a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer? And that number is sure to grow as more women come forward to find out why their families seem plagued by breast cancer.

Are you aware that men can – and DO – get breast cancer as well? One out of 1,000 men will get breast cancer, yet because so few people realize this is a possibility, it is usually found later and is more deadly than their female counterparts. Male breast cancer is also a huge red flag for genetic involvement.

Are you aware that early detection is NOT prevention? While early detection of breast cancer via mammograms or your own monthly exams is the best chance you have for successful treatment and cure, once you have breast cancer you aren’t preventing it. Exercise, lowering our BMI, pregnancy, breastfeeding … these things may help us lower our risk. Still, shit happens.

Are you aware that less than 5% of research funding for cancers go toward learning more about metastatic cancer, including breast cancer? And that 20-30% of breast cancer cases become metastatic? Breast cancer rarely kills women these days. But metastatic breast cancer does. Survival time once diagnosed with mets is just 3 years.

This October, be more than aware of breast cancer. Be aware of the reality of breast cancer underneath the pink ribbons and positive outlook. Think before you pink and if you choose to support an organization’s efforts, make sure they are transparent in where your money is going. They should tell you – up front – which nonprofit they are supporting, how much of the money is going to that specific charity (all proceeds? 10% of profit? $1 for every purchase?), and if there is a cap to their charitable donation.

And consider hosting your own educational events like a Brighten Up where you can educate yourself and your coworkers, friends and fellow leaders about the real risks we face in our family history and what we can possibly do to reduce our risks.