By Flo Rodriguez Stuebe
October: the month of pumpkin spice, horror movies, and sweaters pulled from the backs of closets. On the other hand, October is also the month of breast cancer awareness.
According to breastcancer.org, women in the United States have a one in eight chance of getting breast cancer at some point in their lives, but most cases occur in older women. Breast cancer is a mass of cells, or a tumor, that are malignant and developed from breast cells. Breast cancer development ranges from Stage 0, when the disease is noninvasive, to Stage IV, an extremely aggressive form.
Several things may put someone at a higher risk of getting breast cancer, such as gender, age, family history, increased weight, or exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in cosmetics, foods, plastics, and other things.
One may think that having breast cancer awareness is unnecessary, and that everyone is “aware” of cancer. However, the purpose of breast cancer awareness is two-fold: first, to remind people to be conscious of their health, including scheduling regular mammograms and performing self-examinations. The second purpose is to raise awareness of the necessity of donating to breast cancer research.
Susan Brown, who oversees patient education initiatives for the well-established breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen, says that while awareness is important, it is time to go one step further.
“[Komen] think[s] that most people are already aware that breast cancer is a problem, so what we really want to do now is to move people from awareness to understanding and then to action,” Brown said.
Pinewood students can take action in the movement against breast cancer. Brown stressed the importance of speaking to patients of breast cancer in their lives, despite any discomfort they may feel.
“Sometimes when people have friends or family that are diagnosed with breast cancer, they do not know what to say or they are very uncomfortable so they do not say anything at all. But those breast cancer survivors tell us that it does not really matter what someone says; instead what is most important is that you are just there for them,” Brown said.
Brown also urges students to participate in breast cancer fundraising events and to support companies who support organizations that are fighting to end breast cancer.
People around the world have friends or family in their lives who have battled breast cancer, and Pinewood students are not excluded. Eighth grader Kiana Duggal is the granddaughter of breast cancer survivor Umaima Chinwalla. Her aunt, Nisrin Chinwalla, who was by her mother’s side as she went through treatment, also encourages Pinewood students to support their friends and family who are battling breast cancer. She believes that breast cancer awareness and education is especially important due to the aggressive nature of the disease.
“I think it is really, really a phenomenal thing that we have now made it such a huge part of educating every single woman in this country that this is a disease that we need to be aware of,” Chinwalla said.
October is a month to shine a light on an important cause that affects so many people across the world and to honor the survivors who fought through.
“[My mother’s] will to fight [breast cancer] and defeat it gives us something to strive for, not only when we are sick, but also in everything that we do,” Chinwalla said.