October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

One in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime, and the American Cancer Society estimates that each year, about 2000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in men.  Most of us know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, some of us may be patients ourselves and others may have a worrisome family history of breast disease.

Seven Ways to Advocate for Breast Cancer Awareness


  • Get involved with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Love/Avon Army of Women and the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.These foundations are revolutionizing breast cancer advocacy and approaches to researching the etiology of disease and strategies for prevention.
    Sign up for the Love/Avon Army of Women:  Join a wide variety research projects invested in understanding the causes and prevention of breast cancer.  Encourage friends, peers and patients to join and spread the word.
    Visit the Love/Avon Army of Women website
    Visit the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation Website for print and media resources
    Join Komen for the Cure : Advocate for legislation, participate in walks for the cure, donate!
    Distribute documents from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to friends, family and at your advocacy events:  “Breast Cancer Facts” and “Leading the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer
    Susan Komen website; exciting and easily accessible opportunities for legislative advocacy. Find your local Komen affiliate
  • Advocate for triple negative breast cancer patients.Triple negative breast cancers lack estrogen and progesterone receptors and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).  Fifteen to 20% of the breast cancer population suffers from this subtype of cancer, which can’t be controlled by most contemporary therapies like Tamoxifen and Herceptin.    Learn more about supporting patients with triple negative cancer and related research through the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.  Of note, the site offers a list of clinical trials available for triple negative cancer patients: spread the word about these opportunities with family, friends and patients who may be touched by this difficult breast cancer diagnosis. Visit the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation website
  • Organize a medical student trip to a local oncology center.Spend time with cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.  Let the center know you’re coming ahead of time and arrange to visit with breast cancer patients who agree to meeting.  Come with prepared questions about family history of disease, screening, diagnosis and treatment.  Get a sense of how cancer has changed their lives and the lives of those around them.  Hear their stories.
  • Give a talk (or bring in an expert) on breast cancer basics for students.Provide an opportunity for AMSA chapter members to educate their peers on the basic and clinical science of breast cancer and encourage group discussion.  Buy pink ribbon and provide attendees with breast cancer ribbon pins. Powerpoint presentation template. Download and customize, add media files!
  • Start a cancer advocacy elective at your school.Organize a syllabus and class schedule, including panel discussions, lectures and movie viewings that address cancer basics, psychosocial aspects of disease, end of life care, spirituality/hope, complementary and alternative medicine, the latest cancer research and approaches to advocacy.  Students could be paired up with cancer patients for the duration of a semester – or even a year – to attend medical and chemotherapy infusion appointments and support group meetings.  Students could also meet as a group to reflect on their relationships with their patients, their understanding of life with cancer and the health care system in place to take care of these patients.  Students could work with their peers to create pamphlets describing resources in the local community that would benefit the patients they are following.  For example, a pamphlet could address mental health issues in cancer patients and provide a list of support networks such as survivor groups, religious communities and other local resources.  The above model is based on the Cancer Advocacy and Reflection Elective (CARE) at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University.  Students interested in learning more about developing an elective can email the CARE elective’s faculty contact Dr. Margaret Wool for more information:  Margaret_Wool@brown.edu
  • Join a local cancer advocacy organization as a student representative.Find an advocacy group that focuses on breast cancer or a cancer issue of interest to you, such as barriers to screening and diagnosis in local minority populations.  These organizations may collaborate with local hospitals to design improved transportation options for cancer patients receiving frequent chemotherapy, be involved in collecting data for research and may provide opportunities to lobby at your state house.
  • Start a support network for students at your school who have been touched by the breast cancer experience, or by other cancers.  Encourage students with past experiences to also attend – they can provide valuable insight and support.  Even starting a blog or monthly meeting group might be a good beginning.