This October, medical professionals across the globe will join in honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The annual commemoration serves as an opportunity to educate the public about breast cancer and encourage women to prioritize their breast health through routine mammograms and healthy living. With breast cancer ranking as the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, it’s more important than ever to help spread awareness and help those who are uneducated on breast cancer get the information they need to prevent becoming part of the statistic.
But how does a pink glove factor into this? Back in 2009, American-based medical supply company Medline Industries began producing and distributing pink medical gloves to healthcare workers around the country as a way of sparking conversation about breast cancer while also using a portion of the profits from these pink gloves to help pay for the less fortunate to get their routine mammograms.
In early November that same year, 200 hospital workers at Portland-based Providence St. Vincent Medical Center got together to produce a video of them dancing to Jay Sean’s hit song “Down” while wearing the Medline-supplied pink gloves. The video went viral, earning 1.6 million views on YouTube in just two weeks. In the years since the Providence St. Vincent video was released, numerous videos re-creating the hit video have been produced and published online, thus creating a fun and engaging way of spreading breast cancer awareness for people of all ages.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are some essential facts you need to know about the disease.
Types of breast cancer and symptoms
Breast cancer occurs when malignant cells (cancer cells) form in the tissues of the breast. In 2022, an estimated 287,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States alone, with an additional 51,400 new cases of noninvasive breast cancer expected as well. There are two common forms of breast cancer:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma – This type of breast cancer begins forming in the ducts of the breast before growing into other parts of the breast tissue, or even spread to other parts of the body.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma – In this type of breast cancer, the cancer cells form in the breast lobules before spreading to nearby breast tissues. Like invasive ductal carcinoma, this type of breast cancer can also spread to other parts of the body.
The most common symptoms of breast cancer include:
- A new lump in the breast or underarm
- Irritation of breast skin
- Any change in shape or size of the breast, as well as thickening or swelling
- Pain in any part of the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, such as blood
There are a variety of risk factors for breast cancer, some lifestyle (diet, exercise, being overweight) and others that are not able to be controlled. Common risk factors include:
- Aging – Most breast cancers are found in people over 50
- A family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Previous use of radiation therapy before the age of 30
- Inherited genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Having dense breasts – Due to dense breasts having more connective tissue, it can be harder for doctors to spot tumors on a mammogram
The CDC offers the following suggestions to help lower risk of breast cancer:
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly
- Ask your doctor about the risks of any birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy medication you are prescribed
- Limit your alcohol consumption when possible
- Stay on top of your routine mammogram appointments
For more information on Breast Cancer Awareness Month and how you can help support the cause, visit nationalbreastcancer.org.