The numbers tell the story: A woman has a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer. Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities focused on researching breast cancer's cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.
Of course, those charities and BCAM have been hugely instrumental in raising awareness and funds for breast cancer. But the fact is, breast cancer is not the number one disease that kills women. Heart disease and stroke are, respectively, the number one and two diseases that kill women, while lung cancer – not breast cancer – is the leading cancer in women. Awareness around lung cancer is lower, as many women who are diagnosed aren't comfortable discussing it, fearing they will be judged: "That's what you get for smoking." In fact, many women who die from lung cancer have never smoked, a stat that gained attention when well-known singer and actress Dana Reeve, the wife of the late Christopher Reeve, died of lung cancer and had never smoked.
While BCAW goes a long way to helping scores of women, many more, along with their families, remain silent during October, and suffer from "pink fatigue" as a result of the onslaught of pink ribbon campaigns. Activists have even coined the term "pinkwashing," which refers to companies who promote – and profit – from selling pink products.
And just as many women suffering from lung cancers are reticent to speak about it, so too are those with gynecological cancers, many of whom are simply too embarrassed to discuss them. Gynecological cancers include:
- Cervical Cancer
- Gestational Trophoblastic Disease
- Primary Peritoneal Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Uterine/Endometrial Cancer
- Vaginal Cancer
- Vulvar Cancer
Many women who are diagnosed with gynecological cancers are not considered high risk, and women who are diagnosed with gynecological cancers say that not only are the media and men uncomfortable discussing it: other women don't like to discuss it either.
However, there are things you can do to reduce the chance you'll get a gynecological cancer and to diagnose it early:
- Know your body
- Protect yourself from HPV
- Get regular Pap tests
- Make healthy lifestyle choices
- Know your family health history
During October, don't pressure your friends to wear pink. While there are plenty of opportunities to support the campaign in other ways, many women, or someone they love, may be suffering in silence with other cancers that remain under the radar.
Catherine Russell is Būband's Content Manager