Cancer Pro Celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Throughout October, Cancer Pro – the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals, and the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers, will be celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Each of our ‘blogs’ will explore a different aspect of Breast Cancer, including what it means to live with Breast Cancer for both women and men and what surviving Breast Cancer means.

Let’s Start With The Facts

1 in 19 women in Malaysia will be affected by Breast Cancer and it accounts for 34% of all cancer amongst females in Malaysia and the numbers continue to grow. Every 15 seconds, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer somewhere in the world. It impacts around 2.1 million women globally every year and is responsible for 15% of all cancer deaths among women. However, early detection significantly improves breast cancer survival, reducing the risk of dying of breast cancer by 40%.

And, remember you don’t have to have ‘Boobs’ to get Breast Cancer, while it is incredibly rare, men can also get Breast Cancer and it accounts for about 1% of all Breast Cancer cases.

To start the month, we’re going to be taking a look at the origins of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the history behind the iconic ‘Pink Ribbon’.

Where did it all start?

Breast Cancer Awareness Month started back in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries).

The former, first lady of the United States, Betty Ford – she of the world-famous ‘Betty Ford Centre for Addiction’ and her daughter helped kick off what was initially a week-long awareness event, with an emotional televised appeal – she was herself a survivor of breast cancer.

The early goal of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was to help educate and empower women about breast cancer, particularly the need for early detection tests so that they could take charge of their breast health. One of their key intentions was to promote mammograms as an important tool to be used in the fight against breast cancer.

During October, breast cancer survivors and those with breast cancer are celebrated and encouraged to share their stories. The month is also dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research and other related causes.

The Iconic Pink Ribbon – the global symbol for Breast Cancer.

Initially, Charlotte Hayey, who along with her daughter, sister and grandmother battled breast cancer, introduced the concept of a peach-coloured breast cancer awareness ribbon, during the early 1990s, when the then 68-year-old Haley began making the ribbons by hand in her home.

She distributed thousands of ribbons at supermarkets with cards that read: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5% goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”

However, unbeknown to Hayey, New York city-based lifestyle magazine ‘Self’ were working with Evelyn Lauder – Estée Lauder, senior corporate vice president and a breast cancer survivor to create a ribbon of their own, which the cosmetics giant had agreed to distribute throughout its New York City stores.

And, so after several lengthy legal exchanges where executives from Estée Lauder and Self Magazine asked Haley for permission to use her ribbon and Haley refused saying “the companies were too commercial”.

The magazine consulted its lawyers and was advised to come up with another colour. Ironically it chose pink, a colour that it was suggested was soothing, comforting and healing — a far cry from what breast cancer really is…

So in 1992, the first nation-wide campaign that utilized the pink ribbon was launched by Estée Lauder cosmetics. They handed out an impressive 1.5 million of them and ushered in the pink ribbon as the premier visual reminder of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Raising Money in the name of Breast Cancer

Over time Estée Lauder alone has distributed over 70 million pink ribbons and donated some $25 million to breast cancer research. While globally, an estimated $6 billion is raised every year in the name of breast cancer.

Today, the pink ribbon has become the universal symbol of breast cancer, illustrating the cause, raising awareness and bringing together women in solidarity. From a simple piece of ribbon affixed with a pin, it demonstrates their support for loved ones battling breast cancer and the hope for a brighter future.

Throughout Malaysia and around the world Breast Cancer Awareness Month, allows everyone to take the time to acknowledge those men and women whose lives have been affected by breast cancer and to support the progress that is being made in trying to eradicate this terrible disease.

To learn more about Breast Cancer and Cancer Pro, visit