Maybe you saw some of our cancer-related coverage last week. On Wednesday, for the ninth year in a row, we dedicated an issue to cancer awareness. We do this each October in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because it seems like the time of year when people are wearing most actively thinking about how we can eradicate cancer.
Clearly, everyone is on the right track in terms of fighting breast cancer. Since 1989, the number of women who have died of breast cancer has steadily decreased. The 5-year survival rate for women with invasive breast cancer is 90% and that number jumps to nearly 99% if the cancer is located only in the breast, which is why it is so important to have regular screenings and catch it before it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. These encouraging numbers are tempered by the fact that some 250,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and about 40,000 will die of it, but the fatalities would be far greater if not for the funds and awareness raised thanks to October and the color pink.
It’s difficult to pinpoint how much money is raised in the name of breast cancer each year in this country. One online estimate pegged it at $6 billion. According to a six-year study by the peer-reviewed journal BMC Cancer, Google searches related to breast cancer increased significantly during the month of October — broader awareness is a contributing factor in fundraising efforts aimed at cancer education, helping patients, and funding new research.
Everyone who donates or dons a pink ribbon or T-shirt, participates in a walk or run or helps to raise awareness and/or funds in any way plays a role and should take satisfaction in knowing many lives have been saved.
Cynically, it makes one wonder what sort of strides might have been made in the fight against, say, liver cancer if guys were as obsessed with the liver as with, well, anyway, it makes one wonder.
What if every cancer was as well-funded as breast cancer? How many of the 50,000 Americans who die of colon or rectal cancer would be saved if they were as aware of it and as diligent about being screened for it? Ditto for the 46,000 or so who die of pancreatic cancer? And how about the more than 140,000 who die of lung cancer, by far the biggest killer of all cancers? (Of course, that would require not victim-blaming.)
There are a number of reasons we dedicate an issue each year to cancer awareness. We want to tell inspiring stories. We want to publicize upcoming events related to screenings and awareness. We want to report news that might provide a bit of hope or at least some knowledge. And we want to afford advertisers a chance to reach out to those affected.
We also want to remind everyone, in October, that while wearing pink and contributing to breast cancer awareness is laudable — worthy of both praise and pride — that there are millions suffering from other cancers that don’t receive nearly the publicity or the funding.
There’s no need to wait for a particular month to donate or learn about various cancers, but it does seem to be a nice impetus. So in case you don’t know — and most of us don’t — here are the months dedicated to raising awareness and funds. January, cervical; February, gallbladder and bile duct; March, colorectal, kidney and multiple myeloma; April, testicular, esophageal and head and neck; May, melanoma/skin and brain; July, sarcoma and bladder, September, childhood, gynecological, leukemia/lymphoma ovarian, prostate and thyroid; October, breast and liver; November, pancreatic, stomach, lung and carcinoid. Additionally, February is National Cancer Prevention Month and June is National Cancer Survivor Month.
There are plenty of online resources to learn about reputable charities and how to help. Don’t stop wearing pink and helping to combat breast cancer. Just don’t forget about all the rest.
Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.