Going pink for a good cause

by Andy Bryenton

October is pink ribbon appeal month, one of the most noticeable street appeals for any awareness campaign thanks both to its bright and visible hue and also because of the sheer impact of the cause. Breast cancer is the number one form of cancer affecting New Zealand women, and helping those who are battling this disease is just as important as educating the public in prevention and working in the lab for a cure.

This year, the pink ribbon street appeal is on October 11 and 12. There are many ways to get involved here in the Kaipara; pop a coin in the bucket when the collector calls, visit breastcancerfoundation.org.nz/donate to make an online contribution, or support one of our local retailers who are running pink themed promotions for the cause. An example is Godfrey’s Chainsaws and Mowers, where the team are raffling off a pink lawnmaster mower, with all proceeds going to the appeal. The Breast Cancer foundation is a not for profit charity, so it’s generosity like this which keeps them out there and able to work in the community.

The figures tell the tale of why it’s important to get behind this message.

There are nine women diagnosed with breast cancer every day in New Zealand. Nine families who will have to cope with big changes to their lives; luckily they have the support of organisations such as Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, who provide counselling and practical rehabilitation as part of their mission. This equates to 3,300 women diagnosed each year, and 25 men as well (men can suffer from breast cancer, as similar tissues exist in men, but are dormant due to the male testosterone/ oestrogen balance).

Early detection is the best defense. Since a programme of mammograms for women was instigated in this country, deaths from breast cancer are down 27 percent. That’s a great result, but it’s only as good as the continued programmes of education and awareness supported by events like pink ribbon day. Despite the success of mammograms in detecting cancers early, and the success of doctors in removing such early-stage cancers, 30 percent of eligible women are still not part of the programme. Modern mammogram scans can detect breast cancer when it’s only the size of the head of a pin; 2 millimetres. There’s a 92 percent chance that if you are diagnosed via a mammogram, you’ll beat breast cancer. So it’s great news that the mobile clinic will be in Dargaville from October 14 to help.

Of course, part of the money raised on pink ribbon days goes toward the ultimate search for a cure. This has been the case since 2008, and this year alone three major studies have been assisted by the Breast Cancer Foundation here in New Zealand.

Around the world, medical science continues to push forward with new ways to eradicate breast cancer; news out of England just yesterday reveals that doctors there have succeeded in experiments with a drug that causes cancer cells to respond better to chemotherapy. Other advances, such as more precise surgical procedures using semi-AI computer enhanced tools, also push the boundaries of what can be achieved. But once again, these developments are only useful if breast cancer is detected early.

For those who have successfully come through a breast cancer diagnosis, there are many ongoing support factors available. In some cases, this just means the chance to talk with others who have travelled a similar path. For others, it means exercise and rehabilitation.

Those who have faced the necessity of a partial or full mastectomy, or reconstruction, may not be aware that there are free services and options available via the Ministry of Health for fitting prosthetic undergarments.

Regaining confidence and living without fear are waypoints of the healing process common to survivors of all cancers, and it’s important for survivors to know that they are not alone.

For all these reasons and more, it’s important for us all to acknowledge the pink ribbon appeal and to do what we can. Whether it’s simply dropping some small change in the bucket or buying a raffle ticket, or giving some time to collect for the appeal, there are many ways to get involved. For vital information about pink October, as well as general information on breast cancer and how to stay safe, self-check and spread the word, visit breastcancerfoundation.org.nz.