October offensive against breast cancer earns support


As the first full month of fall begins, awesome colors abound. Vibrant shades of red, orange, green and yellow will soon mix amid the leaf-filled landscape to create a mesmerizing mix of splendor. In recent years, however, bright pink has upstaged the traditional autumnal color palette. That’s because pink affixed to ribbons, clothing, banners and more symbolizes the increasingly robust campaign each October to fight breast cancer in our community and in our nation.

The Mahoning Valley can take pride in the overwhelming and compassionate commitment it makes in October and throughout the year to raise awareness, to expand treatment opportunities and to increase the ranks of breast-cancer survivors. As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins, pink will become the color of choice to increase public visibility of the disease and to draw attention to this community’s aggressive and energetic commitment to rein it in.

In our region, the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center stands as the crown jewel of that commitment. The 5-year-old state-of-the-art treatment facility stands as a vital cog on the campus of St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown. In its short life span, the $8 million center has saved countless lives and has garnered praise from near and far. It’s received coveted national recognition as the winner of the Guardian of Excellence Award from Press Ganey Associates Inc. for achieving 99 percent patient satisfaction.

Its mission has attracted phenomenal community support, as evidenced by the 10,000 runners and walkers who turned out five weeks ago for the 2016 Panerathon, the largest fundraising event in the Mahoning Valley that thus far has raised more than $1.6 million for the center.

EMBRACE AWARENESS

But that commitment extends far beyond support for Joanie Abdu. Many groups in the community have embraced the nationwide campaign. Businesses, nonprofit charities and college organizations – most notably Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at Youngstown State University, which has raised more than $1 million in recent years for research – have united behind the pink banner.

To be sure, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has grown in volume and in passion since first observed 24 years ago. But just as in 1992, the mission of the month-long movement remains clear: The fight to cure the disease must be won.

Breast cancer is a cancer in which cells in the breast tissue divide and grow without normal control. Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. About 1 in 8 women can expect to be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the disease kills about 200,000 American women annually.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that in the Mahoning Valley, breast-cancer rates remain significantly above state and regional averages. In addition, many myths and old wives’ tales surround the disease. That’s why a continued strong outpouring of local activism for education, outreach and research remains critical.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Opportunities abound this month to continue the momentum. All day today, 100 percent of proceeds from the sale of Panera Bread’s Pink-Ribbon Bagels in our region will benefit the Joanie Abdu Center. ZTA plans its 16th Annual Pink Ribbon Cheer Classic on Oct. 23 at YSU’s Beeghly Center with a $100,000 fundraising goal. The American Cancer Society’s 2016 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5-kilometer benefit walk will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Austintown Fitch High School. Contact the American Cancer Society’s Northeast Ohio offices in Canfield for more information and registration or visit its website at www.cancer.org.

To those few out there who grumble that coloring October in pink represents one cheesy, tacky and overdone strategy to fight a serious disease, we say baloney. If one pink-lighted building, one pink poster or one pink ribbon reminds one high-risk woman of the need to schedule a mammogram, the value of pink-ribbon month will have proved its worth.

Breast-cancer awareness events this month can point proudly to their impact on major improvements in early detection, treatment and reduced death rates. Today, the ranks of disease survivors in the U.S. have swollen to more than 3 million.

That’s why we encourage all compassionate Valley residents to don their brightest and boldest pink attire this month and enlist in the expanding ranks of foot soldiers committed to victory over breast cancer’s pernicious war on Americans’ health.

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