Every year Malti Prakash religiously takes part in social support groups as a volunteer and steers the NGO she works with to help create awareness about breast cancer and conduct breast cancer checkup camps for women. Every October, she takes charge of the ‘Pink October Initiative’ in her office. Her vigour, enthusiasm and positivity might trick you into believing she is an ordinary woman. But, she is not just a woman, she is a brave warrior. Malti is one of the several hundreds of women across the globe who is a breast cancer survivor and strives each day to raise awareness about breast cancer.
Come October and the entire world – breast cancer survivors, patients, their families and all those who want to support the cause come out in their pinks to create awareness about early detection and treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second most common cancer in the world. The condition affects nearly 2.1 million women each year worldwide. The best way to fight breast cancer is through early detection, which helps in early treatment, which in turn helps in an easier fight against the disease – this is what ‘Pink October’ initiative is all about.
Not only does the initiative help raise awareness about breast cancer and its early detection but also plays a huge role in building a global community that comes together to stand with those affected by the disease. The month of October has been marked as the World Breast Cancer Awareness Month by the WHO and is observed in most countries. This drive was started to create awareness, increase attention and support for early detection, treatment of the disease and palliative care for those fighting it. But, today, it is an emotion; an emotion that brings together millions of people, their survivor stories, their families and those patients who are holding on strong to fight the disease even as you are reading this.
Kshama Jain, from Pune, heads the volunteer group at an NGO run by a leading oncologist in the city. This middle-aged housewife was detected with early-stage cancer in her late 40s, a few years back. At the time, a tumour was spotted on the mammogram screening in Kshama’s left breast. The early detection of the tumour helped gave her the advantage to fight and survive the cancer. Today, she advocates the cause of raising awareness in women and urging them to conduct routine mammograms.
Malti, an MBA graduate working with a leading bank in the country, recollects how she found solace in not just her family and friends, but also in her colleagues while going through her breast cancer treatment. Support and compassion from her colleagues helped her cope and manage therapy sessions and her journey as a whole.
**Kshama and Malti are just two among millions who come out in support of the cause every October, but they are determined to make a world of difference. Women like them are working with different organisations, NGOs, hospitals, diagnostic labs, and support groups to provide their services. Every step, every effort and every endeavour made as part of the Pink October initiative is important. “It is just overwhelming to see the number of people that come to help and support not just the cause but also the people and families suffering due to the disease,” said the sister of a breast cancer warrior. Many corporates are now increasingly supporting the cause and encouraging their employees to wear pink and help raise money for breast cancer charities by participating in donations, marathons, walkathons and so on.
This change in outlook towards breast cancer as a disease and supporting those fighting the disease emotionally, mentally and psychologically has gone a long way to provide the much-needed positivity and strength to the women undergoing treatments for breast cancer. The Pink October initiative has been gaining importance over the years and this has helped many families cope with the disease their loved one is suffering from and patients have found support in other patients as well. Building a community with efforts like these are extremely beneficial as it helps both patients and families stay strong while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
With increasing reports of breast cancer in men, ‘Add blue to the pink!’ is becoming popular too. Yes, men can get breast cancer too! Though a minuscule 1% of the total breast cancer cases in the world occur in men, the mortality rate is higher in them than in women. The primary reason for this is the fact that people are unaware that breast cancer can occur in men too and they often ignore symptoms of the condition. Apart from NGOs and corporate houses, the Pink October initiative is now being conducted by different governments, diagnostic lab companies, pharmaceutical companies, universities and isolated communities in different parts of the world.
Another striking change that has taken place with the efforts of the Pink October is the kind of assistance and help that is available today – screening tests for those who cannot afford, routine mammography kits for people in the villages or tier 2 and tier 3 cities, discounts at diagnostic labs and pharmacies for those fighting the condition and the like. In fact, a large number of fashion and accessories are available today to help women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy to step-out with confidence and make a style statement. ‘Embrace your scars’, ‘Proud of the scars,’ etc, are many such bold slogans that have become popular in recent years that provide the mental strength to women to accept, embrace, fight and come out victorious.
With so much change and awareness that the Pink October Initiative has created, we can hope for lesser mortality rates among people from breast cancer and expect a better quality of life for them post-treatment
Consult a breast cancer specialist to know more about signs and treatment options.
** Names have been changed on request.