Breast cancer is the leading form of cancer in women, but it can also affect men. Every year, more than 252,000 women are diagnosed with this invasive cancer in the United States. The disease kills more than 41,000 men and women every year.
The first day of October marks the annual campaign known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month when major charities work to raise awareness of the disease, and money for research. Still, you don't need to wait for October to do your part to fight breast cancer.
Here's What You Can Do
There are many ways to do your part and contribute to cancer research or even help cancer patients in your community. Whether you are willing to donate your time or money, here are some of the best strategies to fight breast cancer yourself.
Buy Products That Support Research
You are probably already familiar with the pink breast cancer ribbon. What you may not know is purchasing products with this pink ribbon can help support cancer research. Make sure you do a bit of research about the company before you make your purchase.
Any company can put a pink ribbon on a product and the symbol is not actually regulated by any agency. For example, some companies put pink ribbons on their product to indicate they support programs for the disease, even if their contributions are not tied to the sale of the item.
Think Before You Pink offers a guide to help you think critically and ensure you are actually supporting charity with your purchase.
Volunteer Time for People Facing Cancer
If you want a more hands-on approach to fighting cancer, why not volunteer? There are many programs available to lend physical, emotional, and social support to people in your community with cancer. Here are a few of them.
Road to Recovery is a program in which volunteers help cancer patients get to and from medical appointments. This program is organized by the American Cancer Society and matches thousands of patients every year with volunteer drivers. You will need to have a reliable vehicle to participate.
If you have been affected by cancer, you can also serve as a mentor for people who are newly diagnosed. After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD) offers a mentor program that allows you to provide in person, online, or phone support to people facing cancer. To become a mentor, you will need to complete ABCD's certification program. This 12-hour program is free and open to cancer survivors and co-survivors.
Participate in a Marathon Walk
Marathon walks allow survivors and volunteers to raise awareness and critical funds for cancer research. There are many fundraising marathons every year that anyone can participate in.
The Susan G. Komen 3-Day marathon is perhaps the longest walk. This three-day event involves a 60-mile walk and an overnight campout to raise funds for Susan G. Komen. The organization hosts walks around the country from August through November, but you will need to raise a minimum amount to participate. If you can't raise the minimum or walk 60 miles, you can be a walk volunteer instead.
Making Strides is a popular cancer fund marathon with walks across the nation. This non-competitive walk raises money for cancer education, support, research, and legislation. You can participate as an individual or raise money with matching grants from your community.
You can support cancer research by making direct donations to top-rated charities. Make sure you always research a charity before contributing money to make sure as much of your donation as possible goes toward the charity's stated goal. Here are some of the best cancer charities:
- American Cancer Society.
- National Breast Cancer Foundation. A $100 contribution helps give a mammogram to a woman in need.
- Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
- American-Italian Cancer Foundation (AICF).
Other Ways to Pitch In
If you aren't comfortable with a marathon or one-on-one support, there are numerous other ways to contribute and help cancer patients and survivors in need. Here are some ideas:
- Offer your skills. Many organizations and support groups can benefit from your skills such as event planning, marketing, basic office skills, and more.
- Start a support group in your community.
- Recycle gently used wigs to the American Cancer Society. These wigs will go toward people who can't afford to buy one.
- Become a breast health educator if you're comfortable speaking to groups. Organizations like ABCD can supply the training you need to become a guest speaker or workshop facilitator.
- As a cancer patient, you can sign up for clinical trials or research projects to help others diagnosed with the disease in the future.