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Her Fight is My Fight

1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. How to protect yourself, and how to make sure your contribution is making a difference.

photo: UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock.com | color effects: Burnett & Williams

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and chances are you or someone you know has been touched by the disease. You’ve seen the pink ribbons, pink socks, pink sports jerseys, pink just-about-everything. The pink campaign has gone a long way toward raising public awareness about breast cancer. This is important, because 1 in 8 American women will, over her lifetime, develop breast cancer, and the more we raise awareness about early detection, the fewer women will die from the disease.

While awareness is instrumental for detection, supportive action and funding are fundamental to improve quality of life, treatment, and ultimately find a cure. It’s important to recognize that not all of those pink products translate into resources that move the needle in the right direction, which means that all of us should be mindful of where we put our well-meaning dollars. There are some questions you can ask before you buy a pink product to help you figure out whether your purchase will make a difference.

  • What percentage of a purchase or donation will go toward breast cancer research, awareness, or support, and how does the company use the money?
  • Does the company you’re patronizing otherwise have a good record for protecting public health and women’s health?

The sad truth is that “pinkwashing” happens all too often. This is when companies and organizations use the sale of pink products more for the benefit of their own bottom line, than for contributing meaningfully. While many pink-branded products and breast cancer awareness fundraising drives have indeed raised money for much needed support and the advancement of breast cancer research, other pink product campaigns contribute little or no benefit to the actual cause. In the worst cases the pink marketing even serves to shield products that might be part of the problem — like a company with a poor record of exposing the public to health hazards, using pink ribbon branded products mainly as a public relations diversion.

This shouldn’t be a reason to avoid making a donation or buying pink, but future breast cancer survivors will benefit from each of us taking a moment to think about whether a particular organization or pink product deserves our donation.

Reducing Your Risk

While some women may be genetically disposed to developing breast cancer, a lot of people may be surprised to learn that 85% of breast cancers happen to women who don’t have any family history of the disease. The good news is there are a number of ways you can help reduce your risk, no matter your genetic makeup. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol, getting exercise, and not smoking are all great ways to keep your body healthy and decrease your risk of developing breast cancer. If you give birth, researchers think that breastfeeding may be protective — and the longer you breastfeed the better. Also be sure to pay attention to your body and talk with your doctor about any concerning changes you notice. And of course have regular conversations with your doctor about your personal risk, and when to begin mammograms and other screenings.

When It’s Personal

When someone close to us is fighting breast cancer, there are things we can do beyond pink ribbons to provide support. For some tips on how to approach the subject and what kind of help may be most appreciated, read our blog “Supporting Cancer Survivors Beyond Awareness Month.

Like so many others, Burnett & Williams has a personal connection with breast cancer that drives our advocacy. We hope all of these efforts lead to a breakthrough, and we wish for survivors to have the strength to keep fighting.

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