Focus on breast cancer brings life-saving results

As the pinnacle of our region’s fall season approaches, vibrant shades of red, orange, green and yellow will soon mix amid the leaf-filled landscape to create a mesmerizing melange of splendor.

Over the past quarter-century, however, pink has upstaged the traditional autumnal color palette here and across the nation. That’s because pink affixed to ribbons, clothing, banners, buildings and more symbolizes the increasingly robust campaign each October to fight breast cancer in our community and throughout the country.

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 is observed this month, 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.

And rein it in we have. According to the Ohio Department of Health’s latest profiles for each county in the state, the Mahoning Valley has witnessed a surprisingly strong decline in cancer cases and deaths in recent years.

Mahoning County has seen its rate of new cases decline by 13 percent between 2005 and 2015. Trumbull’s rate has fallen 12 percent and Columbiana’s 9 percent. That progress ranks better than the statewide decline of 7 percent.

In our region, the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center stands as the crown jewel of that commitment and progress. The 7-year-old state-of-the-art treatment facility stands as a vital cog of St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.

In its short life span, the $8 million center has saved countless lives and has garnered praise from near and far. Its mission has attracted phenomenal community support, as evidenced by the 11,000 runners and walkers who turned out Aug. 26 for the 2018 Panerathon, the largest fundraising event in the Mahoning Valley that thus far has raised more than $2.5 million for the center.


But this pink-ribbon month of awareness 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 26 years ago when Self magazine editor Alexandra Penney first used a pink ribbon to draw attention to the cause. But just as in 1992, the mission of the monthlong 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.

In the Mahoning Valley, Ohio and most of the nation, breast cancer ranks second only to lung cancer in scope. In addition, many old wives’ tales surround the disease. That’s why a continued strong outpouring of local activism for education, outreach and research remains critical.

Opportunities abound this month to continue the momentum. ZTA plans its 18th Annual Pink Ribbon Cheer Classic on Oct. 21 beginning at 7:45 a.m. at YSU’s Beeghly Center. The event deserves support of cheerleading squads throughout the region as it typically raises more than $100,000 each year.

The American Cancer Society’s 2016 Real Men Wear Pink Day takes place Wednesday when men are asked to join the fight by donning their smartest pink attire in return for donations from admirers to the breast-cancer fight.

Warren-based Covelli Enterprises also is continuing its long-standing tradition this year of donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each of its pink-ribbon bagels throughout October to the Joanie Abdu center in Youngstown.

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.

The strides made over the past 25 years prove otherwise. What’s more, 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 more than proved its worth.

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