The Breast Cancer Fight: How to Get Involved

There are many ways you can make your mark on the fight against breast cancer.

4 min read

With October comes Halloween candy, autumn leaves, and breast cancer awareness.

This year we've had some vivid reminders as to just how much a difference all our support can make in the battle against breast cancer. In April, scientists announced that the drug Herceptin cuts the risk of breast cancer recurrence by more than half and reduces the risk of death by one-third for certain women with early-stage breast cancer. It's one of the most revolutionary advances in breast cancer treatment in decades, and it wouldn't have happened without years of individual support for research funding and clinical trial participation.

If we want more breakthroughs like this in treatment, diagnosis, prevention, and awareness of breast cancer, we all have a part to play.

One way to raise money for breast cancer research and awareness is to get on your feet. Runs, walks, and other active fundraising events are everywhere, sponsored by organizations ranging from the American Cancer Society to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Some fund research, some offer prevention programs, some provide outreach and education for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer; all are worthy of your time and support. It's a little late to sign up for this year's Three-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, Race for the Cure, or "Tour De Pink," but you can start training now for next year's races. And it's never too late to pledge to a friend's effort! Here are just a few of many organizations you can run, walk, or bike for, or just exercise your check-writing arm:

  • The American Cancer Society: (800) ACS-2345 (sponsors "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer")
  • The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation: (972) 855-1600 or (800) IM-AWARE (sponsors the "Race for the Cure")
  • The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: (800) 510-WALK
  • The Young Survival Coalition: (212) 206-6610 (sponsors the "Tour De Pink")
  • The Breast Cancer Research Foundation: (866) 346-3228
  • The National Breast Cancer Foundation: [email protected]
  • Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization: (800) 221-2141
  • Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation: (310) 230-1712

Many of these organizations have local affiliates, so if you'd like to donate money specifically to support research, education, and breast cancer support in your own community, search the national organization's web site for the affiliate nearest you.

Whether or not you have money to spend or donate, your time is just as valuable. Most of the races and walks organized by groups such as the Komen Foundation and the American Cancer Society depend on the dedication of volunteers to make them happen every year. You can also volunteer at a local cancer center, donate blood, or participate in clinical trials. If you have talent with hair or makeup, the American Cancer Society might be able to use your skills at a local "Look Good, Feel Better" events. Some other volunteer opportunities include:

  • The American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program, (800) ACS-2345
  • "Look Good...Feel Better" (800) 395-LOOK
  • Clinical trials around the country often need healthy volunteers. Go to's breast disease section and search for "healthy volunteers" to find a trial that you might participate in.
  • Your local cancer center. Almost every hospital with a cancer center has a volunteer program, such as those at Sloan-Kettering in New York, M.D. Anderson in Houston, the Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Every October, store shelves bloom with pink products: bracelets, scarves, sweaters, perfumes, and more, with some of the proceeds for each going to breast cancer research, support for patients, and public education and outreach. You can shop and do good at the same time! One great source of information about this year's "think pink" merchandise is the October Pink Buys section at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation's web site. From $2.99 tennis balls to a Burberry leather trench coat, all the pink products sold benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which supports nearly 100 leading breast cancer researchers worldwide.

Other ways to do your part:

  • Fund free mammograms with a daily click of the mouse at The Breast Cancer Site.
  • Buy or sell for the cure on EBay.
  • Switch your license plate. Many states offer special breast cancer awareness license plates; the $25 extra you pay will usually go to a state fund providing breast cancer care and services for low-income women. Ask your DMV if your state has one.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine that individual contributions make a difference in the enormous fight against breast cancer. But consider this: In early September, the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced that it was awarding 202 research grants, for a total of more than $45.1 million, as part of its Award and Research Grants Program. The amount of research grants funded this year represents a 40% increase over last year's research grants funding of just over $32.2 million.

In a news release, the foundation's vice president of health sciences, Rebecca Garcia, PhD, stated, "The ability to make our largest research investment to date is directly attributable to the successful efforts of our more than 100 Komen Affiliates across the country." And at each of those affiliates -- and in so many local communities where funds are being raised for national, regional, and local organizations battling breast cancer -- the fight begins with you.