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Cedars-Sinai Blog

Beyond the Pink

October brings with it an array of familiar colors. The rich orange of pumpkins. Autumnal yellows and rusts. The greens, purples, and blacks of Halloween. And of course, October brings a broad swath of pink, as breast cancer awareness month ribbons adorn websites, billboards, social media feeds, and lapels.

October's saturation of pink ribbons, hoodies, T-shirts, and other merchandise can feel overwhelming. If you're looking for a way to fight breast cancer beyond turning your profile picture pink, consider these options.

Learn your risk

Women in the US have a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, but individual risk varies and depends on factors such as age, race, ethnicity, and family history. A talk with your doctor is a good place to start, especially if you have a family history of cancer and suspect you might be a candidate for genetic screening.

There are also online tools to help you estimate your risk, like the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool developed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute.

Lower your risk

Every woman has a risk of breast cancer, and some risk factors—like family history—can't be controlled. But everyone can take steps toward prevention:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Even walking briskly for 10 to 20 minutes a day can make a difference, according to some studies.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Limit hormone replacement therapy.
  • Limit alcohol intake.

Keep up with your screenings

If you've had your 40th birthday, it's time to talk to your doctor about mammograms. Screening has moved away from one-size-fits-all guidelines, but many doctors still feel mammograms are important for women in their early 40s.

The US Preventive Services Task Force suggests women get a mammogram every other year from ages 50 to 74. The task force also advises women under 50 to talk to their doctor about starting mammograms sooner, based on their individual risk factors.

The American Cancer Society states that women with average risk should begin annual mammograms at age 45, then switch to every other year at age 55.

Support the National Institutes of Health

Funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the past 15 years has been fairly flat, once inflation is factored in, although these dollars have never been more important. Basic science and clinical trials for cancer—and a host of other diseases—rely heavily on this federal funding.

Make a call or write a note—on pink stationery or not—to your elected representatives to tell them scientific research and the fight against breast cancer are important to you.

Consider donating directly to research

The siren call of pink products is everywhere this time of year, and every little bit of money helps. Consider giving directly to an institution or charity that funds breast cancer research instead of purchasing a product that will give just a portion of your funds to the worthy cause. Charity Navigator is a nonprofit that can help you decide where to send your donations.

If you'd like to donate to cancer research efforts at Cedars-Sinai, you can make a gift online and specify that you'd like it to go to cancer research.

Support your loved ones who have cancer

Your loved ones who have been diagnosed with breast cancer—or any cancer—may need your help and support. If you're a spouse or close family member, ask if you can attend their appointments with them to help out. Doctor's appointments can quickly become overwhelming with large amounts of information, and it's easy to forget to ask a question or remember the answers later.

Volunteer to bring by a meal or provide rides to and from treatment. Saying that you'll do "anything you need" is a well-meaning offer, but it's often more helpful to be specific.

Sometimes a cancer patient taps a point person to give updates on their treatment, so they're not sharing the same information many times. That might be someone you can ask if you're not sure if there are specific needs you can help meet.

The American Cancer Society offers a comprehensive guide on what to expect when a loved one is diagnosed, and how you can help.

There are plenty of ways to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And you don’t even have to wear a ribbon.