Every 12 minutes a woman in the US will die from breast cancer. It is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women today, just behind non-melanoma skin cancer. Fortunately the last 20 years has seen an explosion in breast cancer awareness. This increased awareness has helped to improve funding and research. This increased research has led to developments in identifying breast cancer risk factors and improved breast cancer treatments.
One of the oldest fundraising efforts is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a walk for breast cancer started in the early 1980s. At its inception, this walk for breast cancer only had about 800 people participating. Today, there are over 100 events held all over the world with more than 1 million people participating. Since that first walk for breast cancer in 1983, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has raised over $770 million for breast cancer research.
The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is not the only walk for breast cancer in existence. Avon also spearheads a walk for breast cancer. The money from the Avon walk for breast cancer goes to the Avon Foundation. The Avon Foundation supports need-based philanthropic strategy that addresses every aspect of breast cancer. Rather than funding just one group, the Avon Foundation supports a wide network of medical, social service, research and community organizations that address some facet of breast cancer, from screening to diagnosis to treatment. Without the funding from the walk for breast cancer, the Avon Foundation would not be able to support so many organizations.
Perhaps the most important contributions these fundraising organizations have made is to furthering research. This research has, amongst other things, identified certain breast cancer risk factors that have helped target which women need more specialized, targeted screening. These breast cancer risk factors include a family history of breast cancer, history of hormone therapy, history of radiation to the chest and more. It has also helped identify certain genes associated with certain forms of breast cancer.
By identifying these genes, researchers have given women the ability to further evaluate their risk for developing breast cancer. Women with a family history of breast cancer will often undergo genetic testing to find out if they have one or more of the identified mutated breast cancer genes. If they find they do have a mutated version, they may then choose to undergo preventative treatment, such as taking tamoxifen or having a mastectomy, to lower their likelihood of dying from the disease.
Not only have these fundraisers increased research, they have also increased awareness for breast cancer. This has prompted many women to do their own self breast exams and identify potential cancers earlier. When caught early, the chances of survival are great. For example, when breast cancer is caught at stage 0 (meaning it hasn't spread beyond the ducts of the breast tissue), it has a 100% 5-year survival rate. Even at stage 1 (when the cancer starts to invade the normal breast tissue, but hasn't spread to lymph nodes), the 5-year survival rate is 98%. It's clear, then, that these fundraising efforts, and the research they have enabled, have made a huge impact on the future of breast cancer screening, treatment and survival rates.