What Can You Do To Raise Awareness?
One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. This sobering fact is a reminder that breast cancer is a disease that affects everyone. Most of us have a relative, friend, colleague, or mentor who is a breast cancer survivor. And breast cancer doesn’t just affect women. The National Breast Cancer Foundation estimates that this year, 530 men will die of breast cancer. Many people with relatives who died of breast cancer spend years worrying that they might be genetically predisposed to this frightening disease.
The importance of breast cancer awareness
Fortunately, there is a silver lining to these frightening statistics. When breast cancer is detected early, before it has spread to other bodily systems, breast cancer patients have a 99% five year survival rate. This means that detecting breast cancer early is the best way to ensure that people suffering from breast cancer have the best survival rates possible. In order to detect breast cancer as early as possible in as many patients as possible, there are a few steps that we need to take culturally. We need to create public breast cancer awareness campaigns that spread breast cancer awareness facts, and we need to make sure people are monitoring their own bodies for signs of breast cancer. In this article, I outline a few things that you can do to make sure you are helping us take these two cultural steps
- Start with the facts
Knowledge is power, and presenting your co-workers with some of the most important breast cancer awareness facts can be a great start to any campaign, no matter how big or small. The CDC can be a great place to start your fact-finding mission, as is the National Breast Cancer Foundation. These facts could take the form of a presentation, a poster, or a flyer that you hand out to your co-workers. Just remember, your goal is to educate, not frighten. Many of your co-workers might already be worried about breast cancer, so you need to focus your facts on what people can do to protect themselves, rather than how likely they are to contract the condition.
2. Teach people to perform self-exams
Although going in to a doctor to get a mammogram is the best way to protect yourself from breast cancer, self-exams are also very important. Bring a nurse, doctor, health educator, or breast cancer expert into the office to teach your co-workers how to screen themselves for breast cancer. Remember, this can be an uncomfortable topic for some people, so make sure your expert is someone who is capable of talking about it in a professional, medical manner.
3. Create a shame-free environment to talk about risk factors
Your awareness campaign should include some discussion about breast cancer risk factors. Most people who contract breast cancer are women of 50 years or older; however, inherited genetic mutations, reproductive history, a sedentary lifestyle, and drinking alcohol, all predispose people to breast cancer. When presenting these risk factors, it is important to be very careful about how you discuss them. Some presentations about risk factors can actually be detrimental because they make the participants feel as though it is their fault if they are diagnosed with breast cancer.
When creating a presentation, be sure that your participants do not feel called out for any of the behaviors that might predispose them to breast cancer, rather, you want to create a presentation focused on the resources that are available for people with these risks factors. Examples of these resources include: providing information about genetic testing for people with breast cancer in their family, providing contact information for Alcoholics Anonymous for people who want to quit drinking, and providing information about affordable exercise groups for people who want to become more active.
4. Host a breast cancer screening clinic
Awareness is important, but it can also be tough for some people to take the time to get screened for breast cancer, even if they believe they might be at a higher risk. Your company could hire a mobile mammography van that could come to the workplace and provide screening services for any workers who might need them. This is a great step your company can take that will make a huge difference for your workers because many people do not get breast cancer screenings simply because they do not have the time or resources—not because they do not want to.
A few words…
I’ve known many women in my life that have had breast cancer, some who sadly are no longer alive. Cancer can strike anyone, we know this. But what most don’t know, or believe, is that when the cancer is detected early there is a much better chance of survival. Educate your friends, family, and co-workers – use the tips we provided above. Helping to raise breast cancer awareness can remind women to protect themselves and let everyone know that you stand together with breast cancer survivors. For more information visit https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org