Among women, breast cancer is the second-most common kind of cancer, and, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, more than 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease. Regular screenings and early detection, however, help find and treat breast cancer early and have contributed to a gradual decline in breast cancer deaths in the past two decades.

Today, more than 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the U.S.

Each year in October, survivors, family members, friends, caretakers, patients and complete strangers band together in support of breast cancer awareness, the importance of early detection and to raise funds for research into its prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure, as well as to provide resources and support for those affected.

Today, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is one of the most recognizable and prevalent movements in supporting awareness and research. With so many pink products and promotions at hand, however, it can be difficult to determine which to purchase or how to best extend support and further our knowledge of the cause. Ask yourself: How much of the funds are going directly to research and/or treatment and how? What type of programs are being funded? Are breast cancer patients being directly supported?

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up our top picks for supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month and for bringing attention to this important cause well beyond October:

1. Send love and hope with a pretty package.

Founded by breast cancer survivor Kara Skaflestad, Portland-based Fighting Pretty, which has been recognized by the American Cancer Society, has helped provide more than 4,500 inspiring, beauty-filled Pretty Packages to women all over the world. Each package is designed to help a woman at any stage of treatment feel strong and beautiful, complete with her own pair of mini pink boxing gloves — a reminder to “Fight Pretty.”

With just a $30 donation, your customized package will be mailed to the breast-cancer fighter of your choice within seven to 10 days.

2. Wear your message on your tee.

One of our favorite brands, Aerie, has released two limited-edition “Take Care of Your Girls” long-sleeved tees. Available in white or heather gray, 100 percent of the tees’ sales benefit Bright Pink, a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancers in young women. All profits from Canada sales of the heather gray tee will benefit Rethink Breast Cancer, which supports young women affected by the disease. Learn more about their partnership here.

3. Donate blood, save three lives.

While we often come out in droves to donate blood after a major tragedy, our donations are needed year-round by cancer patients, who often need blood as they undergo chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery due to the effects that treatment has on the bone marrow, where healthy blood cells are created.

With less than an hour of your time at an American Red Cross donation center, you can directly help up to three people battling breast cancer in October and beyond. Call 1-800-RedCross to find a blood drive nearest you.

4. Let your hands do the talking.

The “Shape of My Heart” healthy blush crème nail color by Deborah Lippmann was created with Shape magazine to help in the fight against breast cancer, with 10 percent of its sales benefitting the Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, Ca.

Not only is the color as pretty as it sounds, its formula is vegan, created with no animal testing and is 7-free—meaning it doesn’t include harsh chemicals, many of which have been linked to cancer. How’s that for having your hands spread awareness?

5. Pick a pink bouquet.

The “Pink Collection” by The Bouqs Co. is not only gorgeous, it has an equally beautiful agenda: to help raise money for breast cancer research and care through fundraisers and events, all while continuing the company’s mission of helping sustainable, eco-friendly flower farmers around the world grow their business.

Twenty percent of the collection’s sales in the month of October are being donated to The Pink Agenda, in partnership with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Additionally, The Bouqs Co. will donate one dollar to The Pink Agenda for each “Story of Strength” or pink Bouq shared on social media with #PinkLove.

6. Catch up on some reading.

Whether you’ve survived breast cancer, have supported a loved one through her battle or simply want to learn more about the fight, stories from survivors and their family members can provide insightful perspectives.

Nancy G. Brinker’s “Promise Me” is a tribute to the bond between sisters and Brinker’s relentless battle to change the way the world talked about and treated breast cancer following her sister’s death and later, her own diagnosis. As a survivor, Brinker went on to become the founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Jessica Queller’s narrative, “Pretty Is What Changes,” intimately explores her body image, identity and sexuality following her facing of the BRCA mutation (“the breast cancer gene”) at 34 and the agonizing, inspiring and profoundly moving choices that came with it.

Lastly, Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s acclaimed graphic novel and memoir, “Cancer Vixen,”  is a powerfully vibrant depiction of fighting breast cancer with grit and style—inspiring cancer patients, at any stage, to gracefully fight back.

7. Commit to learning more about prevention research.

Research into the detection and treatment of breast cancer is still of utmost importance and cannot be halted until a cure is found. However, while the vast majority of funding explores disease management, it behooves us to understand how breast cancer is caused so that it may be blocked and/or prevented altogether.

The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, for example, spends 82 percent of its revenue on programs aimed at better understanding the causes of breast cancer. A staggering 95 percent of the California Breast Cancer Research Program, managed by the University of California, directly funds prevention research and education, with 50 percent of its research going to further exploring environmental causes, risk factors, protective measures and the causes of income inequality as they pertain to breast cancer.

However you choose to spread and support breast cancer awareness this October, do so with conviction in the manner that’s dearest to you. The most important part is getting educated — and getting started! For additional resources, visit the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund.


Images via Michelle Kim

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