October can feel different for each of us — some wear pink to celebrate, some quietly observe the month, some feel grief, and some feel unseen or misunderstood. We want to normalize it all. Here’s what you need to know about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held in October every year, was created in 1985 to promote screening and prevention of the disease, which affects one in eight women in the United States every year and 2.3 million women worldwide. Known best for its pink theme color, the month features a number of campaigns and programs — conducted by groups ranging from breast cancer advocacy organizations to local community organizations to major retailers — aimed at:
supporting people diagnosed with breast cancer, including metastatic breast cancer
educating people about breast cancer risk factors
stressing the importance of regular screening, starting at age 40 or an age that’s appropriate for your personal breast cancer risk
fundraising for breast cancer research
Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day
October 13 is nationally recognized in the United States as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. About 30% of early-stage breast cancers eventually metastasize (spread to parts of the body away from the breast), and the day is intended to drive awareness to the need for more research about metastatic disease.
Men’s Breast Cancer Awareness Week
Although breast cancer is much more common in women, breast cancer affects men, too. In 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden designated October 17 to October 23 Men’s Breast Cancer Awareness Week.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month controversy
Although many people feel supported by the month’s events, activities, and pink merchandise, others — especially those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer — intensely dislike Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The ubiquitous pink ribbons and celebratory atmosphere can seem like a distraction from the very real need for greater understanding about the disease and more research leading to better treatments.
Many people are also offended by what’s become known as pinkwashing — companies using pink ribbons to promote products or services that may actually increase the risk of breast cancer, or sponsoring pink-ribbon promotions that raise large sums of money with only a small portion going to breast cancer research or supporting people during their breast cancer treatment. Think Before You Pink is a campaign designed to improve awareness of pinkwashing and to help people donate in the most effective way to the cause.
At Breastcancer.org, we understand that the month means different things to different people: Some want to celebrate in head-to-toe pink, while others feel unseen, and still others may quietly observe the month. We want to normalize all of it.
Learn more about breast cancer
For all its controversy, Breast Cancer Awareness Month can be a good reminder to learn more about breast cancer, the risk factors for you and those you love — and how to minimize them — and the importance of being screened for the disease.
Breast cancer awareness: Statistics
In 2022 in the United States, it’s estimated that 43,780 people — 43,250 women and 530 men — are going to die from breast cancer.
According to the CDC, about 9% of all new cases of breast cancer in the U.S. are found in women younger than 45; breast cancer risk increases as women get older.
Black women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women, but are 41% more likely to die from the disease.
About 170,000 people in the United States are living with metastatic breast cancer.
Breast cancer risk factors
Just being a woman and growing older are the two biggest risk factors for breast cancer. Those factors are difficult to change, but you can change other risk factors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and not exercising regularly.
Breast cancer screening
Regular breast self-exams, an annual exam by your doctor, and yearly mammograms are important tools in breast cancer detection — especially early detection, when cancers may be more treatable.
Things to do this Breast Cancer Awareness Month
If you delayed your annual mammogram because of COVID-19, schedule your appointment now and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Learn more about breast cancer and how it affects peoples’ lives from our podcast, videos, and medically reviewed educational content on Breastcancer.org.
Join our community discussion forums to ask questions or connect with others. You can also attend a virtual meetup for support related to your diagnosis or if you are a caretaker for someone who’s been diagnosed.
Support the work of breast cancer advocacy organizations, and consider making a donation to Breastcancer.org. Millions of people turn to Breastcancer.org to make sense of a breast cancer diagnosis. We’re here to help people understand complex medical decisions and get the best care possible. Donations are an important part of supporting our resource-intensive work and help us keep our website content and community forums free for everyone.
This information is provided by Breastcancer.org.
Donate to support free resources and programming for people affected by breast cancer: https://give.breastcancer.org/give/294499/#!/donation/checkout?c_src=clipboard&c_src2=text-link