It’s October, so please think pink
It’s October, which means people and places everywhere are ‘going pink’ for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is also time for one of this newspaper’s two annual calls for prevention that saves lives.
Every year, during the festive season we launch an appeal to not drink and drive, a way to easily prevent the unnecessary loss of life.
And each October we launch our pink appeal because, beyond the tragedy of breast cancer and the lives it affects and takes every year, there is hope: breast cancer is detectable and treatable.
Especially during the month of October, pink expresses support for women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, recognises those who survived their battle with the disease, honours those who died and reminds everyone that steps can be taken and more must be done to keep breast cancer from striking in the first place.
The victims of breast cancer need support, and not just from loved ones, friends, healthcare professionals and researchers. They need support from you, and that is the underlying purpose of Pink October.
It is a sad fact that there are very few of us fortunate enough to have not been directly or indirectly touched by the insidious killer that is cancer at some point in our lives. And it is an ominous fact indeed that Malta registered the EU’s second highest incidence rate for breast cancer in 2011. Since then, the absolute number of newly registered cases of breast cancer per year has decreased marginally from 349 in 2011 to 209 in 2013, according to the latest available figures.
The problem as far as Malta is concerned mainly boils down to the country’s ageing population, a general lack of physical activity and obesity. That Malta’s population is rapidly ageing is a simple fact, but we can certainly do a great deal to address
CHIEF OF STUFF
the country’s seemingly chronic problems with weight, lack of exercise – particularly as evidenced and amply documented in the younger generation – and the unhealthy, ironically non-Mediterranean diet that prevails in most households.
Malta is still in time to address the frightening prospect of an anticipated surge in new cancer cases over the coming 15 years, but if we are to do so, on a national and personal level, we must begin to redouble our efforts now. Scientists estimate that about a third of the most common cancers can be prevented simply by maintaining a healthy weight, being more physically active and eating healthier.
Close to four per cent of all deaths in Malta are directly attributable to cancer, and close to 10 per cent of all cancer-related deaths are from breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. It is the main cause of death in women aged 40 to 59 and about one in 10 women can be expected to develop breast cancer in the course of their lives. Risk factors such as age, the age at which a woman delivers their first child, family history and menopause account for nearly 50 per cent of the risk, with environmental factors also playing an important part.
When it comes to the scourge of breast cancer, awareness is of paramount importance since prevention and early detection are, as with all cancers, the best defence.
And when you consider the risk factors for breast cancer – and there are many, sadly – there is a key element over which women do have agency: early detection. And raising that awareness is what the month of October, Pink October, is all about.
This year’s Pink October campaign in Malta aims to raise €90,000 from various activities and events which will be held throughout the month. The funds raised this year will be used to purchase a Faxitron Biovision machine to further enhance diagnostic precision and effectiveness during breast and other cancer-related surgery.
Donations collected last year were used to purchase X-ray equipment for breast biopsies, which helps surgeons to be more accurate when removing breast cancers and increase survival rates for patients.
We encourage everyone to get involved in at least one of these activities and to lend your support to the fight against breast cancer.
It does not, and should not, stop there. During Pink October people wear pink ribbons to honour survivors, to remember those lost to the disease, and to support the progress being made to defeat breast cancer.
We encourage readers to wear a pink ribbon lapel pin, which has become an international symbol to increase awareness about breast cancer. If one is not readily available, simple instructions for making one from a piece of pink ribbon can be easily found online – a small and inexpensive gesture that speaks volumes.
This newspaper and its daily sister edition are sporting a pink ribbon on our front page mastheads this month; we strongly encourage all readers to show their support in a similar fashion and join in the fight against breast cancer.
There are always the critics and the disaffected, the detractors who complain or mock October’s pink tinge. But if turning every single floodlight that illuminates every bastion, every monument and every public building in the country the colour of candyfloss on steroids reminds women to schedule a mammogram or to have themselves examined for a suspect lump, we can live with that, gladly.
That is because of the simple fact that every life lost to breast cancer is one life too many.