Every October the colour pink shows up in full force. Schools and work places organise a ‘Pink October Day’ were teachers, students and employees are encouraged to wear pink and pink ribbons to raise Breast Cancer Awareness. We see advertisements for several walks, runs and bike rides being organized in Malta and Gozo to raise funds for this cause. Why is it so important that year after year we emphasize the importance of women (and men) across the globe to regularly check their breasts?
The risk of breast cancer is highest in the Western societies. Our high-calorie diet combined with low physical activity are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. In Malta, over the past twenty years incidence of this disease has continued to increase. However, mortality is on the decrease (Attard, Dalmas & England, 2016). Increased awareness combined with the development of specialized breast care health services seem to have a positive effect.
Being breast aware is important for all. Women are advised to set a fixed day every month to check their breast. Ideally, for pre-menopausal women this would be at least a week after the period ends (during the period the breasts tend to be swollen and tender). For menopausal women, it might be easier to choose a fixed day such as the first day of the month. Checking your breasts regularly is an easy way to understand how your breasts normally look and feel. Any symptom that is not usual including a breast lump, bleeding/eczema of the nipple, redness or skin changes should all be checked out by your family doctor. If the doctor perceives a problem you will be referred to a specialized Breast Cancer Unit. There you will be checked by a breast surgeon and if needed referred for breast imaging and a biopsy.
Breast screening is also an important part of being breast aware. Screening involves a number of tests or exams carried out before an individual has any breast symptoms. At times, this can lead to early breast cancer detection. Discovering a small breast tumour that has not spread to other areas, can be easier to treat successfully (American Cancer Society, 2017).
The battle with breast cancer doesn’t necessarily end once treatment is complete. At times, survivors need to face the after effects of cancer treatment including change in body image, fertility issues, anxiety and fear of cancer recurrence and metastasis. Wearing pink during the month of October is a simple way to let these individuals know they’re not alone. Moreover, it shows our support for cancer research and health education. Hopefully, one day no man or woman will need to fight this disease again…
Attard, J.; Dalmas, M. & England, K. (2016). An update in Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Health Care Services in Malta. TheSynapse.Net Vol.15 (2), 31-33
American Cancer Society (2017): https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection.html
Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.