A breast cancer survivor and her husband said just last week that they had no idea they were in such good company. “All around us,” the husband said, “people popped up with personal experience. Even friends we thought we knew turned out to be survivors, and they were full of encouragement.”

Navigating the diagnoses, choosing the treatments, and absorbing the impact of the news are paths that can stand some companionship. And survivors say those who’ve walked those paths before join them with strength and hope.

Making a National Tradition of Care

Perhaps no other health awareness initiative has gained such awareness as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons everywhere are an expected rite of fall. Friends and neighbors walk, run, and raise money for research. Even football players from the NFL to the local high school don pink socks, towels, and gloves, and Harley Davidson riders join forces to spread the word. Not since the March of Dimes helped to end epidemic polio in the 1950s has awareness been mobilized so widely and so deep within our culture.

Early Detection Was the Point

When October was first designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1985 it was aimed at promoting mammography. Awareness and the means of early detection grew geometrically since then, and every aspect of breast cancer is touched now by the involvement each October generates under this pink banner.

Offering a Broader Base of Support

The National Breast Cancer Foundation publishes an early detection plan that guides women through symptoms and signs, breast self-exams, clinical exams, mammograms, and healthy habits. Their patient and family guide, titled Beyond The Shock, provides a caring map for patients, their families and loved ones.

Other NBCF initiatives include programs for breast health education, mammography, and support for breast cancer research.

Of particular interest is the Patient Navigator Program. Sparked by the realization that specialties and options face the newly diagnosed breast cancer patient in profusion – and confusion – patient navigators are professionals whose job is to be the patient’s ally in sorting through them all. Experience and know-how come in handy when we are faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, and yet rarely does a new patient arrive with that experience in-hand. The patient navigator steps in to fulfill that guiding role.

Building the Foundation of Familiarity

The rise of patient navigators is a reminder of how vital it can be to have a focused ally on your side. A family physician performed that function in times past, building a thorough knowledge of the health of the whole family, so that in times of challenge each patient started with a firm base.

Perhaps another facet of awareness this October could bring is to remind us of the importance of that base, and encourage us to build it through a relationship with a family physician. If you have yet to find a family physician, we’d like to serve you in that role. To schedule an appointment with us, just call us at 843-815-6468.