There are a lot of things that make October a special month – the Major League Baseball playoffs, the heart of football season and the changing weather, just to name a few. But October is also important because it is the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I’ve always been proud to support those who fight against this terrible disease, and I am proud to see the national spotlight pointed on the effort to help raise awareness for one of the most deadly diseases in America.
It’s hard for those of us who haven’t personally gone through it to imagine what a diagnosis like this would do to our families or us. But most of us know someone who has gone through it, and we know how important it is to both raise awareness and support research for a cure.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 39,000 American women are expected to die from breast cancer each year – only lung cancer kills more women – while an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women, and the second deadliest after lung cancer.
Take a moment to think about those numbers – over 39,000 families losing a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, aunt or niece. How many children who have to grow up without their mother? And hundreds-of-thousands more who live but have to go through the terrifying and harsh experience of being diagnosed and treated. These are just numbers in a report; they are millions of lives throughout our state and our country, living this experience each and every day.
In Alabama, we have a very, very high rate of breast cancer deaths among African-Americans. The American Cancer Society ranks Alabama in the second highest tier, estimating that for every 100,000 African-American women, between 30 and 32 will die from breast cancer. That statistic is both shocking and unacceptable!
In my life, I have had the privilege of knowing many women who have gone through breast cancer. When they tell me about their experience, they usually begin by praising God for getting them through it. But the second thing they talk about is how early screenings and self-examinations saved their lives. The best treatments in the world won’t help you if you don’t know you need them. Checking yourself on a regular basis can save your life!
I also encourage everyone to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCFRA.) Founded in 1996, BCRFA is behind the most recognizable symbol of breast cancer awareness in the state – the pink plate. Thanks to the pink plate and other fundraisers, BCFRA has raised over $5.1 million for breast cancer research since its inception.
It’s because of people that support organizations like BCFRA and the American Cancer Society that more and more women are able to win their fight against breast cancer. I’m proud to wear pink to show my support, and I encourage you to do what you can to help.
Whether it’s raising money for cancer research through phone apps like Charity Miles, buying the BCFRA pink plate the next time you renew your car tags, or encouraging the women in your life to perform regular self-examinations, all of us can do something to help make a difference.
Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.