I worry that I may alienate some friends and allies by being so cranky about breast cancer awareness. I feel at times like I need to share my breast cancer bona fides, share my family’s medical history or personal stories, to justify my position. But I don’t worry so much that it keeps me from talking. Or typing.
I want to help people move from awareness to action. You’d have to be living in a cave that you got to through a time machine set for 100 years ago not to be aware of breast cancer at this point. (And if you had a time machine, you wouldn’t be living in a cave 100 years ago now, would you?)
So, to be constructive and helpful instead of cranky and snarky, here are five things you can do to move from being aware of breast cancer to taking action toward a cure. Many of them don’t even require you to move from the chair in which you are sitting right this very minute.
Review the steps for doing a breast self-exam, and do them every month.
I’ve been doing these for years, and still learned two new things about self-exams this year. I learned that 41% of all breast cancers start in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, toward the arm pit. So pay special attention to this area. I also learned to squeeze my nipples, looking for discharge, something no doctor had ever told me.
Once, long ago, a doctor asked me if I did breast self-exams. I reflexively said yes. “Show me how you do it,” she said, just as reflexively. It felt a little weird, but I showed her, and she instructed me to press harder.
So, yes, it may feel weird, but for extra credit on this one, ask your doctor to observe your technique and give you feedback. Would you rather feel awkward, or not discover a tumor until it is too late to do something about it?
Think before you pink – educate yourself about pinkwashing.
Consumption may be patriotic (cough, cough), but don’t just buy something because it has a pink ribbon slapped on the package. Hit the web. See if you can find out exactly how much money your favorite yogurt/paper towel/lipstick company is actually donating, and to whom. If you can’t find out, write the company! Demand accountability! Just say no to pinkwashing!
Go Green Instead of Pink, Part I
Consider skipping the retail transaction altogether in favor of a donation to the breast cancer charity of your choice, like a local organization that provides low-cost mammograms, or a women’s health clinic that performs more cancer screening than any other organization in the country, or a top cancer hospital. They need your money not just to fund research, but to provide life-saving care right now to women who might not otherwise be able to afford treatment.
Go Green Instead of Pink, Part II
The sad, scary fact is that some chemicals make it more likely that a person will be susceptible to cancer. Even scarier is how little we know about this. But scariest of all is how little we talk about it.
You may think you cannot afford to go all-organic at the grocery store, but take one small step. Pick one or two key products and start from there. Maybe organic hormone-free milk. Or, check out the list of the vegetables that carry the highest risk from pesticides, and go organic with those.
Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of major food companies going pink for awareness while profiting from food products that may contribute to the increasing rate of cancer in our country. That’s not even the half of it. The extra credit assignment for this action step is reading The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It by Robyn O’Brien.
Join the Army of Women and Volunteer for Cancer Research
Yes, I’m a broken record on this one. When you think about all of the emphasis we place on research
for a cure, though, doesn’t it make sense that we need people who are willing to be subjects in that research? And that we want as diverse a group of research subjects as possible to make sure we get it right?
After you sign up at Army of Women, you will get periodic emails about researchers looking for subjects for clinical trials. I don’t qualify for 99.9% of the studies, but I can almost always think of someone I know personally who would. Research isn’t valid without a big enough sample size. Finding participants is expensive. Joining the Army of Women helps to solve those problems.
How can you say no? How can you say no to any of these action steps? Can you add to the list?
[And, for the record, this is a very woman-focused list. Sucks, doesn’t it? Men, after all, can carry the breast cancer genetic mutation, and men can get breast cancer. Do we alienate them by making it all about the pink? A topic for another post, unless you can beat me to it with male-specific action steps.]