Today the 1st October 2010 is the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month and there are a number of cracking initiatives to get this month developing awareness amongst the general public, and women in particular about the devestating and wasteful effects of this disease which affects in the UK alone one in nine women at some point during their lives, and interenationally takes one woman’s life every 69 seconds. That is right 69 seconds. Long slow inhale, exhale. And so wasteful – but what can be done?
Here are three things I am going to undertake over the next month which will make a small difference, which if multiplied hundreds and indeed thousands of times would start to make a real difference to this killer disease, which even when it is cured can seriously undermine a woman’s health and her wider network of family and friends well being while it is being addressed. The social, psychological and physiological impact of the intervention required on cancers which include intrusive surgery, from lumpectomy to mastechtomy, the savaging of one’s immune system from chemotherapy, and the impact of radiotherapy are significant. The financial costs are not trivial. From diagnosis to the first all clear can take for those with an invasive cancer up to a year. Thank God for life, but a full year, and then for many the thought of living under a cloud of unknowing as when the cancer might stike again.
So here at the start of Breast cancer awareness month are my three things to do during this month to provoke a change.
October Action ONE
If you are not already undertaking regular breast self examinations then do so! It is estimated that seven out of ten discoveries of a non-benign tumour or growth emerges from a woman’s self examination and NOT from the yearly or biennial mammograms which are undertaken. It is never too early to learn how to undertake these and a good introduction to how to do these is on this utube link – If you have daughters, sisters or other women friends get them to take a look as well. It might just be a life saver for them in the future. breast self examination This video shows how to undertake a breast examination – which is something which is a skill that I have never been inducted into and so many of my female friends have never had clarified – so once you’ve finished this blog make a time to sit down and watch, and a quiet uninterrupted space to practice!
October Action TWO
So OK you’re going to get your own health checking TLC (Touch look check self examination) programme together. Great. But if there are one in nine women being affected by breast cancer at some point in their lives, there just have to be some women in at your work place, or your place of worship, in your neighbourhood, down your street or in your apartment block or in your wider family who have been affected, or will soon be affected.
Discovering that you have a tumour, whatever its stage or grade is a truly unnerving experience. The impact of undergoing treatment has huge emotional and psychological and in many cases economic costs as weeks turn into months of treatment and increasing disconnection from ones world of work and social interaction.
For those undergoing chemotherapy the withdrawal from the wider social whirl and interchange can have severe emotional impacts, and put enormous pressures on both the individual undergoing the treatment and their immediate families and households who are supporting a person through this physically profoundly challenging time.
So this October, why not connect with someone you are aware of who is undertaking their own battle with cancer. Pick up the phone, send a card, ask whether there is something practical that can be done? check out how cancer sufferers are being provided for at work with appropriate sick cover and assurance of re-engagement after the completion of their treatment, make that call and be the friend you want to be. Just be open to how your friend, neighbour or work colleague reacts. They set the agenda for how they would like your friendship and care to be expressed.
The journey through cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment is particular for each person who undergoes it. But connecting and being present for people who are undertaking it is SO important – so be part of the change, so that loneliness, depression and disconnection is kept to the minimum.
October Action THREE
The third area to address is public awareness of the importance to tackle all Cancers. Cancer need not be the silenced C word of fear and terror. It can be addressed through minimising risk, enabling early diagnosis and enhancing the methods of treating cancer which minimise the long term potentially negative impacts of some of the more gruesome consequences of the current regimens of chemotherapy on substantial and aggressive tumours.
Raising public awareness and the political will to make Cancer intervention a key health platform is vital. It has the potential to save thousands of lives in Britain annually and millions globally.
Oneinninewomen is concentrating on the key women’s cancer – Breast Cancer, and will be blogging on some of the women who over the last few decades in particular have lost their lives to this killer, and some of the terrific new initiatives for change.
Thankfully survival rates due to enhanced early detection rates, improved surgical intervention and laboratory testing and individual treatment planning have improved exponentially over the last two decades. But a huge amount remains to be done.
If you have a friend, a loved one, or a hero whose contribution and life has been cut short by breast cancer do post a comment here or let us know on our twitter feed. And join the social network movement for change on this Every 69 Seconds Breast Cancer Awareness Social media campaign. A few clicks on your social networking site will increase awareness – and then to some of the tougher engagements.
To make the change – we need to Be the change. Breast Cancer charities encourage those wanting to raise public awareness to wear pink during October to provoke the conversations and awareness which needs to happen to improve people’s health outcomes and chances as Cancer is faced down and the tables turned on this silent intruder. Making the C word into a word for checking (self examination), for care (looking out for your neighbours, colleagues, and friends) and for change (in awareness and treatment options) will make October a powerful month in the international movement to beat Cancer into the dread disease of the twentieth Century and refuse its place in the third millenium.
Happy wearing of the Pink this month and engaging in conversations which make a difference. And remember TLC – Touch Look Check – and pick up that phone and be the difference. Every 69 seconds, makes you think, let’s be the change together.