Since 1985, October has been National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, thanks to the American Family of Physicians, AstraZeneca, Cancer Care Inc, and a few other sponsors. Today, we mark the month with the color pink to help shed light on breast cancer, sharing information about prevention, treatment, and getting tested. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in the United States. To boost awareness, employers can encourage employees to get involved. We’ll cover the basics of breast cancer and ways people can get involved in the workplace.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer can develop from different parts of the breast. A small number of breast cancers start from tissues other than the breasts. Breast cancer can spread when the cancer cells get into the bloodstream or lymph systems, then advance to other areas of the body. If cancer cells spread to the lymph nodes, there’s a higher chance the cells could metastasize to other parts of the body. However, not all people with cancer cells in their lymph nodes develop metastases.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women. Breast cancer can be diagnosed through breast ultrasound, mammogram, MRI, and biopsy. Men and women can both develop breast cancer, although it is much more common among women.
Causes and Risk Factors
There is no single official cause of breast cancer, which varies by individual case, from lifestyle to genetics. Doctors estimate about 5-10% of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations. The two most well-known breast cancer genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2; both are associated with a significantly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. A positive BRCA gene does not guarantee the development of cancer.
Several risk factors are aligned with breast cancer; some are in our control, and others are not. The risk factors we can manipulate include:
- Alcohol use
- Being overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle or not being physically active
- Taking hormones (both estrogen and progesterone)
Risk factors that are out of our control:
- Reproductive history
- Genetic mutations
- Family history
- Race and ethnicity
- Dense breast tissue
- Personal history of breast conditions
- Getting first period at a young age
- Beginning menopause at an older age
Preventing Breast Cancer
Understanding the risk factors that we’re able to change can help significantly reduce the chances of developing breast cancer. Reducing alcohol intake, eating a balanced diet, and living an active lifestyle are all healthy ways to reduce the chance of developing breast cancer, along with most other cancers too. These are all ways to help diminish the possibility of breast cancer; there is no guaranteed preventative option.
For those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, doctors might recommend undergoing a BRCA genetic test. Doctors also recommend that women who have tested positive for the BRCA gene and are finished on their reproductive journey consider a double mastectomy to reduce the risk of a breast cancer diagnosis substantially. The best way to beat breast cancer is early detection, which is an added reason of importance for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The more people are mindful of breast cancer, the increased likelihood of getting checked.
Ways to get Involved at Work
The goal of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in the name itself, awareness. There are several ways to help spread awareness in the workplace as well as help raise money for the cause.
- Host a breast cancer event (walk, bake sale, fashion show, luncheon, yard sale, etc.)
- Encourage employees to join local breast cancer walks (Susan G Komen)
- Have employees wear pink on Fridays
- Collaborate with local businesses
- Auction off bedazzled bras
- Ask survivors to share their inspiring stories
- Share newsletters or flyers on self-breast exams
- Send annual email reminders to get checked
- Promote employer-provided health and wellness hubs
- Advocate for volunteering together
- Create a wellness campaign (step challenge, walkathon)
- Add pink around the office (wreaths, flowers, pens, etc.)
- Create a themed bulletin board
- Give care packages to those undergoing treatment
- Dedicate the company’s social media accounts to awareness
- Remind employees of health benefits
- Provide breast cancer education (symptoms, prevention, diagnosing)
- Sponsor employee support groups for survivors or those currently battling
- Have a pink pumpkin contest
- Collect hats or scarves for donation
- Visit breast cancer centers and patients
Employee participation in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month should be optional and not forced. For some, it might be a sensitive issue. If hosting an event, employers could donate proceeds to any employees currently battling breast cancer to help with treatment costs. Bringing a doctor into the workspace to conduct complementary screens could also help. In case that is not feasible, allowing employees to take a paid day off to get checked is a viable alternative.
Educating employees about health benefits can relieve stress if Human Resources gathers all relevant health insurance information; a list of in-network primary care physicians, gynecologists, geneticists, oncologists, and imaging facilities for mammograms. People with a family history of breast cancer might be fearful of a possible diagnosis and put getting checked on the back burner. If the legwork is done for employees (finding in-network doctors and facilities), it can embolden them to get checked for breast cancer.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month inspires people to donate their time, goods, or money. We’ve gathered a few charitable organizations:
Here is a resource to local charities and nonprofit organizations.
Stay Healthy with Alltrust
On average, every 2 minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer. Understanding breast cancer, the symptoms, and the risk factors can help reduce the number of diagnoses. The entire month of October is dedicated to spreading awareness and education. Every workplace should promote National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to aid in reducing the number of deaths and advancing research. Fostering a supportive and healthy work environment can help employees seek medical attention to check themselves or a loved one for breast cancer.
Although October is the only month marked for breast cancer, championing awareness and education should be a year-round effort. Alltrust Insurance understands the importance of health and wellness outside and inside the workplace, and ensuring all employees feel safe and healthy is our main focus. Contact us today to learn how our services can support your team during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.