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Celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This blog post discusses the importance of scheduling your mammogram appointments through organizations like CARTI and reveals the history of the famous “pink ribbon” you see everywhere during the month of October.

CARTI Cancer Center

Since 2019, many women have delayed or missed their mammogram appointments due to COVID. Now that COVID has slowed down a bit, it’s time to start scheduling regular checkups again. Dr. Stacy Smith-Foley, the Medical Director at the Breast Center at CARTI Cancer Center in Little Rock, recently went on AFMC TV to encourage women to get caught up on their mammogram appointments and begin focusing on testing and screening again. After all, even though COVID has remained stagnant over the last year or so, breast cancer has not slowed.

CARTI in Little Rock has been Arkansas’ cancer specialist since 1976. Their medical, surgical and radiation specialists deliver the world’s most advanced forms of cancer care with genuine compassion. CARTI treats over 35,000 patients each year from every county in the state. They offer hematology/oncology services in Benton, Clarksville, Clinton, Crossett, Conway, El Dorado, Heber Springs, Little Rock, Magnolia, North Little Rock, Stuttgart and Russellville. They also provide radiation therapy at centers in Conway, Little Rock, Mountain Home, North Little Rock and Searcy. Their mission is to ensure that trusted cancer care is available to everyone that they serve.

CARTI Logo42

If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer and you’re at average risk, you should start getting your mammogram at age 40. However, it’s important to know that, as you grow older, your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases, so you should never really stop getting a mammogram. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. In fact, in 2022, an estimated 287,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. Though men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer, it is very rare. An estimated 2,710 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022.

65% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage, meaning cancer has not spread outside the breast. The survival rate for localized breast cancer is 99 percent. However, there are still large numbers of women who die from breast cancer every year: this year, an estimated 43,550 women will die from breast cancer in the U.S. Approximately 530 men will also die from breast cancer.

Given these statistics, it is crucial that you do not delay your breast exams and mammograms. Dr. Smith-Foley mentions that, if you have a fear of getting a mammogram, her best advice is to “rip the Band-Aid off and get it done. The longer you delay, the more anxiety you create in your own mind about having it done,” she says. CARTI does their best to ensure that you feel safe while you are going through the mammogram. They have “comfort measures” they use, like foam pads and felt blankets to ensure you are comfortable before going through the x-ray machine. It’s not like the older mammogram devices that we’re used to. Dr. Smith-Foley suggests that anyone who is afraid to get a mammogram come to CARTI to see them. I can assure you, they will take great care of you while you’re there.

You can watch the full AFMC TV episode with Dr. Smith-Foley here. You can also visit CARTI’s website for cancer care resources, locations and support here.

The Pink Ribbon Story

If you or a loved one have suffered from breast cancer, you have probably done your best to donate to breast cancer research and wear pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to show your support. Throughout October, many of us see the striking pink color for breast cancer awareness on billboards, on TV, on social media, and even on company logos. While we’re all familiar with pink’s connection with breast cancer awareness, not many of us know the story of how the famous “pink ribbon” came to be.

The pink ribbon actually started as a peach ribbon, thought up by Mrs. Charlotte Haney, the creator of the world’s first breast cancer ribbon campaign. In the 1980s, when her older sister and her daughter both developed breast cancer, there was no movement around at the time. Charlotte wanted better funding for breast cancer research. To encourage women to perform self-exams and visit a doctor for regular testing, Charlotte decided to make her own awareness campaign. In Simi Valley, California, she created an awareness ribbon to fold and stick on a piece of cardstock. The ribbon was peach, Charlotte’s favorite color.

The card displayed a simple message: “Breast-cancer awareness ribbon. Join the grassroots movement. Help us to wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.” Charlotte began handing out the ribbons at grocery stores and doctor’s offices. Around the same time as her movement began, the AIDS awareness red ribbon campaign began to gain traction. Charlotte thought her peach ribbons could make the same progress if she began mailing them across the U.S. and worldwide. Her daughters believe that Charlotte mailed around 40,000 ribbons across the globe, five ribbons per envelope.

While some family members pitched in to help fold the ribbons, buy the peach ribbon reels and even photocopy the cardstock, Charlotte and her family made no money for their efforts. In fact, when people sent her checks in the mail to support her family, she mailed the check back voided and told them to give their money to cancer research instead. Soon, Charlotte’s ribbons began making waves in the LA Times. Then, Charlotte received a phone call that would forever change the trajectory of the breast cancer awareness campaign: Alexandra Penney, the editor for Self Magazine, was on the line, hoping that she could help Charlotte promote breast cancer awareness with the peach ribbon by featuring it in her magazine. Self Magazine was immensely popular at the time, and although Charlotte hoped for national and global recognition, she did not feel that it was right to “make money off someone else’s pain and suffering.” She had already been through enough with her sister and daughter being diagnosed. She could not live with herself if prominent companies began to make money off her movement, so she declined.

Though Alexandra had loved ones of her own that had suffered from breast cancer and were fully supportive of boosting the funding for cancer research, Charlotte still said no. Despite Charlotte’s lack of cooperation, however, Alexandra was set on starting a ribbon campaign of her own. To avoid legal trouble, Alexandra changed the color of the ribbon from peach to pink, a color she likely saw promoted on similar ribbons in 1991 at the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure in New York. Nonetheless, the October 1992 issue of Self Magazine launched the pink ribbon breast cancer campaign. The makeup company Esteé Lauder also got involved and began handing out pink ribbons at their makeup counters across the country. The rest is history. You can read the full story here.

Though Charlotte Haney was the creator of the world’s first breast cancer ribbon campaign, Alexandra Penney is often mentioned as the creator of the pink ribbon. Original or not, Penney’s pink ribbon and the sweeping advertisements and campaigns that followed changed the game for breast cancer awareness, especially in the early 90s when breast cancer was only whispered about in the U.S. Thankfully, breast cancer is spoken about much more across the nation today, and more and more women are performing self-exams and scheduling mammography appointments with their doctors. Whenever you see the pink ribbon in October, be sure to remember Charlotte Haney and Alexandra Penney and their impacts on the breast cancer awareness movement.

Media Contacts

Eldrina Easterly

Mobile: 501-553-7607

Chris Hughes

Office: 501-212-8742
Mobile: 501-553-7651

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