Another October, and yet another National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). It has been nearly 30 years since the first NBCAM in 1985 was launched by the American Academy of Family Physicians and the pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca Health Care Foundation and CancerCare, Inc. Its orginal goal was to promote mammography as the best weapon to fight breast cancer. And, early media coverage focused almost exclusively on encouraging screening. It was assumed that all breast cancers were the same, and if caught early, death from disease could be prevented. We have learned a great deal in the past 30 years. Scientists have discovered much more about the disease. But the public dialogue about breast cancer hasn’t changed much at all. It’s time for a new conversation.
That’s why I support Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®—the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s campaign to know how to end breast cancer by January 1, 2020. We have had 30 years of NBCAM, buying pink products, applauding when public buildings are bathed in pink lights and walking and running for the cause. We are all pretty comfortable with that approach to breast cancer Well, we have to end our addiction to comfortable. To easy. To good enough. It's time to be leaders. True leaders—that means every one of us who want to play a role in knowing how to end breast cancer must take action. We all must find the will, the strength, the belief to do what it takes to achieve the end of breast cancer.
[I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 55 years old. When I was diagnosed, all of my friends and family assured me that I was going to be okay because I had done the right thing by getting my mammogram and “catching it early.” When my cancer metastasized three years later, I realized that all of the PSAs about mammograms and “awareness” during Breast Cancer Awareness Month can only do so much. I now know that what we really need to focus on during October is ending breast cancer once and for all.]
The deadline changes everything.
In 1991, in the United States, 119 women died of breast cancer every day. More than 20 years and billions of research dollars later, that number is 108. That’s one death—one mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, brother, daughter—every 14 minutes. This year nearly 40,000 women and roughly 400 men will die of breast cancer in this country alone. Worldwide, that figure is more than ten times that amount.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) launched the deadline campaign because they weren’t satisfied with the pace of progress and how little has changed. NBCC did not just declare a deadline; they also have a plan of action. This blueprint focuses on primary prevention, stopping women and men from getting breast cancer, and understanding and preventing metastasis (the spread of cancer), which is responsible for 90 percent of breast cancer deaths.
But NBCC can’t do it alone. They need advocates and leaders to help direct the public dialogue about breast cancer from awareness to knowing how to end breast cancer by the end of the decade, and to push for change where it is needed most.
[I realized that I needed to be part of that change. I participated in Project LEAD,® the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s premiere science training program for activists. Now, I am helping make Breast Cancer Deadline 2020® a reality by reviewing breast cancer research proposals for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program to make sure that funds are being used to end breast cancer. I am proud to be an educated activist working toward this mission.]
For women like [me], the deadline is also a lifeline. It’s even more than that, though. It’s a way to ensure that future generations never have to hear the words “you have breast cancer.” Some people have said it is impossible. But impossible things have been accomplished. We got to the moon because a deadline was set. Polio was cured in less than a decade. NBCC wants to move beyond the impossible and into a world without breast cancer. Will you join us?
[Your Name] is a [member] of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (www.BreastCancerDeadline2020.org).