By Ryeá O’Neill
For those just diagnosed with breast cancer, or those living with the disease, or even those who proudly bear the title of ‘Survivor,’ October means more than just a pink ribbon. Many local communities hold awareness events from rallies to book signings to 5ks; all flying the banner of the pink ribbon of hope. Hope that one day we will no longer have to fight this disease.
Did you know that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, exceeded only by heart disease, and female breast cancer ranks second on the list of cancers? For those living with this disease and those who have survived, October is a very important month. It brings awareness not only to the facts of the disease, but also to inspire the public. To move people to do something outside of the norm. The normal is what has gotten us to this point – to where we are today, to breast cancer being the second leading cancer killer.
For breast cancer, early detection remains the cornerstone of control. The American Cancer Society reports that when it is detected early with adequate diagnosis and treatment, a localized cancer has a 5-year relative survival rate around 99%.
Early detection means performing self-exams and getting mammograms based on age. Don’t be shy about it! Checking your breasts monthly can save your life! There is plenty of information available on the internet, for example at National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.
This includes men too! Men should be paying attention to any changes in their breast tissue as well as women. Although it is rare, about 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the US is found in a man.
While respected health sources are best, there’s a lot of helpful information that can be found on social media too. TikTok videos and Facebook reels are fast becoming good resources for helping people learn the proper way to perform a self-breast exam. Many of us have never seen it done or only viewed a cartoon character on a poster in a doctor’s office. The people in these videos are changing the landscape of breast cancer self-exams. They are giving it a real-life feel and making it something people can relate to.
Here at the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank, we know about thinking outside the box, outside the norm. We are continually participating in research projects to further our technicians’ skills and advance scientific knowledge and clinical practice hoping to help others overcome blindness with new and better procedures. We know we can always be better and do better.
Pairing our outside-of-the-box thinking with breast cancer awareness, it’s important to share the fact that anyone with breast cancer can still donate their corneas. We feel being able to give the gift of sight to another and leave a legacy adds more hope to the pink ribbon.
Often, people think because they have cancer, they cannot be a donor after death. As a result, they will remove themselves from their organ, eye and tissue donor registry, either online, at the DMV or when they get their driver license. Please think twice before doing this.
Simply put, breast cancer is not a medical rule out for eye tissue donation.
Whether you are in an active stage of breast cancer, or are a survivor of breast cancer, you can be an eye tissue donor after death. Every donor’s medical record is reviewed at the time of their passing. Breast cancer alone is not a rule out for eye tissue donation.
If you are passionate about donation after death, we encourage you to register your decision to be a donor and then share your decision with your family. Talk about your ability to donate, even with your breast cancer diagnosis, with your family. It’s important to share your donation decision with them ahead of time.
Whether you are supporting someone with breast cancer, living with it now, or a survivor, the most important thing is to remember that you are not alone. October is flooded with images of the pink ribbon of hope, but that support remains throughout the entire year, you just might have to look around in other places for it.