Why we need to champion Breast Cancer Awareness Month more than ever this year

Jane Moore

October 1 marked the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the world, the annual campaign aimed at raising awareness of the disease.

Every year, over 3,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Ireland. It is the most common cancer among Irish women, and although much progress has been made in treating and surviving breast cancer, over 700 women lose their lives each year because of this disease.

In any other year, there would be events such as marathons, fun runs and coffee mornings taking place across the country, all aimed at bringing people together to raise funding and awareness for breast cancer. But this year, due to COVID-19, these events could not take place.

The pandemic has also seen a delay in diagnosis and treatment of the disease. BreastCheck, the national screening programme to detect breast cancer, has seen a 55.5 per cent drop in the numbers screened in the first six months of this year compared to the same time last year.

Commenting on the delays, Professor Janice Walshe, Consultant Oncologist at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin said; “Cancer services have been hit badly by COVID-19, with many referring to it as the ‘forgotten C’.

“Symptomatic clinics and breast cancer screening need urgent resources and prioritisation to ensure that a second casualty of the pandemic is not needless deaths from cancer due to late detection.”

To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Marie Keating Foundation has launched a new campaign to highlight how every patient’s cancer journey is different.

‘Breast Cancer Isn’t Just Pink’ focuses on four women, each on or recovering from a unique breast cancer journey, that share their stories of sadness, determination and hope, and reveal what the ‘colour’ of their journey has been and why.

The Marie Keating Foundation has also organised its first-ever 5/10K Virtual Run. The charity stressed the importance of keeping active during this challenging time, and encouraged people to “run, walk or jog your own 5/10K in your local area, and help to raise vital funds to support their life-saving breast cancer awareness and support services.”

It costs €20 to register, and you will be able to log your race results from October 1 to 31.

A number of other Irish cancer charities have remodelled their annual fundraising and awareness campaigns to ensure that people can still get involved despite the restrictions.

The Great Pink Run, which usually sees 10,000 people taking part every year, has also gone virtual. In its 10th year, it is hoped that the event – on October 17 and 18 – will continue to be well supported.

Other suggestions made by the Irish Cancer Society include hosting a virtual coffee morning, a virtual movie night or simply hosting a virtual collection on your social media account.

In this current climate, breast cancer is still a health concern that should not be ignored, now more than ever.

To view the ‘Breast Cancer Isn’t Just Pink’ campaign, visit https://www.mariekeating.ie/notjustpink.

For more information about how you can get involved this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit www.cancer.ie/ways-to-help.

Author: Jane Moore

Image Credit: Angiola Harry on Unsplash