Ahh, October! This means fall colors, football, Halloween, and the feeling that everything has been coated with Pepto Bismol. That’s right, it’s breast cancer awareness month!
The month where pink is everywhere, from food packaging and signs to football players’ gloves and shoes.
I am the son of a mother and step-mother who are breast cancer survivors. I’m also an oncology nurse, so I love the press that breast cancer gets. I also sometimes wonder where the love is for all the other cancers—blood cancers, lung cancer, prostate cancer, gastric cancer and colon cancer. The list goes on… If it’s a part of your body, it can get cancer (though cancer of the heart is incredibly rare).
This is why it’s exciting that the press that breast cancer receives helps that cause and spills over to other cancers.
We All Know Someone…
Awareness of breast cancer not only increases awareness of related cancers, like cervical, but cancer as a whole.
Cancer is very simply cells that grow uncontrollably for one reason or another. Whether it is in the breast, stomach, lung, brain, or elsewhere, the biology is essentially the same.
If you or someone you know is affected by breast cancer, you’ve likely done some research on what treatment is like. Most cancer patients are going through something very similar.
Breast Cancer Research: The Bigger Picture
Drugs developed to treat breast cancer often are later approved to treat other cancers. For instance, Herceptin is now approved to treat stomach cancer. In fact, the same category of drug is used to treat the lymphoma my father-in-law is fighting. We can thank breast cancer research for this advancement in treatment.
Cancer treatments develop at an amazing rate. So, it’s only a matter of time before the next great drug is developed for cancer of the breast. And then, it likely will help in the treatment of another cancer!
I have administered many hundreds of chemo treatments, knowing some were administered as part of clinical trials. These trials test the effectiveness of the drug on other forms of cancer.
Where Does the Money Go?
While the money raised by the organization we all know, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, may go to breast cancer research, the impact of the nearly $260 million in public support in 2016 goes far beyond that.
This organization helped secure a $2 billion dollar increase to the far-reaching National Institutes of Health. They support programs that not only provide early breast cancer detection, but also cervical cancer detection. Of the funds raised, 23 percent goes toward studying the biology of how ALL cancer starts and progresses. Another portion goes toward prevention and risk management.
Many of these strategies help prevent and manage risk of many cancers and other health issues.
So, don your pink shirt (or socks, like my son), watch grown men tackle one another with pink shoes on and drink your coffee out of a pink cup. And know that by supporting breast cancer awareness, you are supporting a better understanding of all cancers. Know, too, that every cancer has its own organization and they all do fantastic work.
Ben was born and raised in Colorado Springs. A graduate of Palmer High School, he traveled north to Boulder and received a degree in Business from the University of Colorado. After graduation, he remained in Boulder, working for the CU athletic football program, where he met his wife, Dana. He convinced her to move to Colorado Springs in 2004 and began working in the family business. He quickly realized his passion was in helping people and he went back to school in 2007 to pursue a nursing degree. Ben is an oncology and chemotherapy certified registered nurse. He was recently promoted to the clinical manager for the orthopedic and trauma unit at Penrose Hospital.