It’s Oc­to­ber, so please think pink

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

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

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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.

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