Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How Nurses Can Contribute

October 04, 2017

In 1990, Charlotte Haley created the first breast cancer awareness ribbon to honor her sister, daughter and granddaughter (all of whom had been diagnosed with the disease). Those ribbons are now a mainstay in breast cancer awareness and prevention efforts year-round. Breast cancer affects one in eight women over the course of her lifetime, and it’s a disease that is close to so many of our hearts. October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month by groups like the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen and the National Breast Cancer Foundation — and we’re shining a light on how healthcare workers can help advance their united mission.

Breast Cancer Statistics and Facts

Here are some quick stats to keep in mind when educating patients about breast cancer:

  • An estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. during 2017, along with 63,410 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
  • About 2,470 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2017.
  • A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the mortality rate is much higher for men due to the fact that they’re more hesitant to seek treatment.
  • Among American women, breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer besides lung cancer.

Breast Cancer Screening Reminders

As with so many diseases, early detection of breast cancer is vital to successful treatment outcomes. That’s why it’s imperative for nurses worldwide to familiarize themselves and their patients with proper screening procedures and warning signs. The American Cancer Society reports that the following factors can influence a person’s risk of developing breast cancer:

  1. Family history: A woman’s risk of breast cancer almost doubles if she has a first-degree relative (like a mother, sister or daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Regardless, about 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.
  2. Personal history: If a woman has developed cancer in one breast, her risk of developing it in the other breast is increased.
  3. Race and ethnicity: White women are slightly more likely to develop cancer than African-American women, but breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women among those under the age of 45 (and they’re more likely to die of breast cancer in general). Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
  4. Dense breast tissue: Women with dense breast tissue are up to two times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with average breast tissue density.
  5. Lifestyle choices: Alcohol consumption, obesity and lack of exercise can all increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Additionally, the American Cancer Society recommends that women who are at an average risk of breast cancer should begin scheduling annual mammograms at the age of 45. They should then transition to getting exams every two years beginning at age 55.

While the medical community continues to make great strides in fighting breast cancer, there is still no cure.

How to Support Breast Cancer Awareness Efforts

Looking for additional ways to get involved? Try these breast cancer awareness activities:

Wear Denim

The American Cancer Society’s started its annual “Denim Day” fundraiser in 1996, and the tradition is still going strong. This year’s event is scheduled for Friday, October 6, and participants are encouraged to ask friends and colleagues to donate $5 or more to wear jeans to work. The money raised from this awareness event will support the American Cancer Society’s work to save lives from breast cancer, and it’s a great excuse to dress casual at your facility or office.

Spread the Word

The National Breast Cancer Foundation is offering a free copy of its NBCF Breast Health Guide to anyone who requests it. This guide includes tips on how to be breast health aware as well as suggested questions to ask your doctor.

Race for the Cure

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®is “the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer ever created. The series of 5K runs and fitness walks raises significant funds and awareness for the breast cancer movement, celebrates breast cancer survivorship and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease.” Find out more here.

Get Social

Love posting on Facebook and Twitter? Use your favorite platform to highlight breast cancer statistics, and encourage your social media contacts and friends to reach out with questions. This is also a great way to show your support for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones.

6 Breast Cancer Awareness Essentials

Break out your favorite pink scrubs and accessories, or add to your awareness collection with these cute styles:

  1. Breast Cancer Awareness Scrubs

Try: Cherokee Always Aware Scrub Top, $16.99


  1. Breast Cancer Awareness Undershirts

Try: WonderWink Fight Like A Girl Printed Silky Tee, $18.98


  1. Breast Cancer Awareness Jackets

 Try: Heartsoul Dream And Inspire Warm-Up Jacket Top, $24.97


  1. Breast Cancer Awareness Accessories

Try: Koi Rhinestone ID Badge Reel, $9.95


  1. Breast Cancer Awareness Medical Supplies

 Try: Prestige Medical Premium Aneroid Sphygmomanometer, $26.95


  1. Breast Cancer Awareness Nursing Shoes

Try: Anywear Angel Breast Cancer Awareness Caring Is Love Slip Resistant Clog, $34.99

How do you raise awareness about breast cancer throughout the month of October and year-round? Share your techniques in the comments section below!

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