October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to bringing attention and support to patients and survivors of breast cancer. Throughout the month, there are many opportunities to get involved in the cause and help raise money for breast cancer research. Here’s how to make the most out of your pink October.

Why does breast cancer receive so much attention?

The American Cancer Association reports that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women and is the most common cancer found in American women besides skin cancers.

“Because breast cancer is so common, it is very likely that everyone will know someone with breast cancer in his or her lifetime,” said Margaret Terhar, MD, FACS at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada and medical director of the Breast Center at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

While the large majority of breast cancer patients are women, it’s not just a woman’s disease. The prevalence of breast cancer in our communities affects everyone, either directly or indirectly, and breast cancer research can also contribute to clinical findings on other cancers. “Breast cancer research is often at the forefront of new therapies. This can translate into new therapeutic approaches for other cancers,” Terhar said.

How can I be an advocate?

There are many ways to be an advocate for breast cancer patients and help promote awareness year-round, but October has an especially high number of opportunities to do so. “Look out for programs put on by advocacy groups, such as walks, runs, bake sales, fashion shows and more. There are also different ways to volunteer helping patients, such as helping with transportation to treatments,” Terhar said.

If you want to get involved, look for upcoming events at local hospitals, schools, and community centers. National organizations and nonprofits for breast cancer awareness can also help guide you toward different advocacy initiatives in the area. The Susan G. Komen organization, American Cancer Society and National Breast Cancer Foundation all have information about local events.

Other ways to be an advocate

  1. Donate to nonprofit organizations raising money for breast cancer. Donations support cancer research, patient resources and funding low-cost mammograms.
  2. Write letters to Congress supporting federally funded cancer research.
  3. Wear pink during October to show your support for breast cancer patients.

How to support someone with breast cancer

If a woman in your life is battling breast cancer, knowing what kind of support to offer her can be difficult.

“Everyone’s fight is individual and experienced differently, so it’s important to respect that,” said Terhar. “Patients value love, support and sharing of strength. Offering advice for treatment or relaying stories of other people you know who have been treated can be confusing and not helpful. Information like this may not be relevant to the patient’s situation.”

  1. Ask what she needs and let her know that it’s an open offer. One day she may need help with groceries, one day she may need someone to sit silently with, and one day she may not need anything. Telling her that’s OK and being there regardless is helpful.
  2. Be present for appointments and take notes for her when there’s a lot of important information being given at once. She may be distracted and emotional in the moment, so being able to relay the key points later can be valuable.
  3. Offer to help with everyday chores like picking up dry cleaning, dropping the kids off at school and making dinner. If she’s going through treatment, ask before you bring food over.
  4. Be patient and respect her feelings and personal coping mechanisms. If she needs to cry, or yell, or simply be quiet, let her do so without judgment or commentary.

Two of the many walks/runs in the valley

  • The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure: This is actually a series of 5K races held across the globe. Combined, these races represent the world’s largest education and fundraising event for breast cancer. The 22nd annual race in Las Vegas will be staged Saturday, May 6, but online registration opened Oct. 1.

  • Making Strides of Las Vegas: This is a 5K race created by Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, a branch of the American Cancer Society. This year’s walk will be hosted at Red Rock Resort Oct. 30. Both races are open to any and all willing participants, regardless of age or fitness level.

Important stats to know about breast cancer

  • Approximately 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year in the U.S.
  • There are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.
  • 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

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