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In 1985, the first Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) was observed in the United States. In the US this event is referred to as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM).
Initially, the aim of this event was to increase the early detection of breast cancer by encouraging women to have mammograms. As many women know, a mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to detect abnormalities in breast tissue. Early detection means that cancer can be more effectively treated and prevented from spreading to other areas of the body.
The US National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Website went online in 1998, and lists the organizations which are on the board of sponsors for this event.Over the years, the focus of this event has widened. A number of organizations based in the US and in other countries now support this international health awareness event.
Given the large number of organizations involved, and the huge sums of money raised, breast cancer awareness has grown into an industry in its own right; this campaign can almost be described as a year long event.
Today, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is as much about raising funds for breast cancer research and support, as it is about raising awareness.
With the founding of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993, the pink ribbon, which had previously been used to symbolize breast cancer, was chosen as the symbol for breast cancer awareness.
The color pink itself, at times, has been used to striking effect in raising breast cancer awareness. Many famous buildings and landmarks across the globe have been illuminated in pink light during this event; Sydney's Harbour Bridge, Japan's Tokyo Tower and Canada's Niagara Falls to name a few.
Due to the success of this awareness event, for many people, the color pink and breast cancer awareness ribbons are now associated with breast cancer awareness.
To sustain momentum of this awareness campaign & gather maximum support, daily events and activities are often held throughout the month of October. For example, a company may designate a day as 'Pink Day' in which employees wear pink at work.
The numerous awareness activities which take place may include sponsored walks, golf events, seminars and breast cancer screening days.
Breast cancer is a disease which begins in the breast tissue; it's the second most common type of cancer and mainly affects women (breast cancer is rare in men).
During 2005, over 185 000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer (see incidence of breast cancer). Left undetected and untreated, breast cancer can spread to other areas of the body. Where breast cancer has to spread to other areas, it is referred to as metastatic breast cancer and classed as stage 4.
The prognosis for stage 4 breast cancer is not good; the 5 year survival rate is only 16 percent. Given the high incidence and destructive nature of breast cancer, early prevention and treatment of this disease is a high priority.