A Brief History of Breast Cancer Support

The history of breast cancer support began nearly 100 years ago with efforts to detect breast cancer earlier. This endeavor grew with breakthroughs in treatment, culminating today with more and more emphasis on preventing breast cancer, although there are still very few methods to do this that are endorsed by western medicine.

Annually, our federal government spends about $900 million on cancer research programs. In the past two and a half decades, since it was formed, the noted community outreach organization of the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation, has invested about $1 billion in the same breast cancer support campaign.

Quotation marks around the words if only women paid as much attention to breast as men do

In the past one hundred years, any stigma due to ignorance that was once attached to cancer has been removed. There is no need for shame or embarrassment for a victim of the disease. Still, awareness is much different than the early 1920s, when efforts were devoted merely to detecting breast cancer using radiation to create the first mammograms which attempted to detect small breast tumors before they had grown to a size that they could be detected in a typical manual breast examination. Historically, this method helped detect about 85 percent of the cancerous tissue.

Still, part of the breast cancer detection exam today, mammograms are usually prescribed every 12 to 24 months for patients 40 and over (depending upon family factors some doctors say start earlier). A doctor will examine the breasts at each check-up and self-examinations should be performed monthly.

By the 1970s the breast cancer awareness message was still “it’s okay to have breast cancer,” diminishing the last vestiges of any stigma. Twenty some years later the message evolved to “one didn’t have to die from breast cancer”.

This message acted as a catalyst for the current thinking of finding a cure for breast cancer and the push for political activism and greater funding.

Today, family history plays a big part in detection efforts with some research showing that women 30 plus years of age who exercise at least one hour per week, reduce fatty foods in their diet, eat fruits and vegetables and only drink alcohol minimally are at a lower risk of breast cancer than women of similar age who do not follow the regimen.

Symbols like breast cancer bracelets and pink ribbons help generate awareness and spark conversations about breast cancer support efforts. Help is always needed to get involved in fundraising and there is certainly a need for more volunteers in hospitals to visit with breast cancer patients to provide support and even cheer them up as they go through recovery.