The breast cancer ribbon is a widely recognized symbol of breast cancer awareness. The ribbon is typically pink in color and is often worn by those who have been affected by breast cancer, as well as by their friends and loved ones.
The purpose of the ribbon is to raise awareness about breast cancer, which is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. As soon as we are near October every year, people all over the world wear pink ribbons in support of the courageous women battling cancer. Most of you are already aware that the pink ribbon represents breast cancer awareness. But how did it all begin? Is the significance of this well-known symbol still clear? To answer some of these questions, we decided to delve into the history of the iconic image, which is now recognized and featured worldwide.
Story Behind the Breast Cancer Ribbon
The ribbon was first used as a symbol of remembrance in 1979 when families tied yellow ribbons around trees while waiting for loved ones being held hostage in Iran. It was then seen red and pinned to actor Jeremy Irons, who wore it to the Tony Awards to raise awareness about AIDS. Almost every charitable cause soon adopted its own ribbon, and 1992 was dubbed “The Year of the Ribbon” by The New York Times.
A breast cancer warrior, Charlotte Haley started the breast cancer movement from her dining room in 1991, handmaking ribbons for the cause. But they weren’t pink. Charlotte made thousands of peach ribbons and attached them to cards that read:
Charlotte went on to hand out thousands of these cards at the local supermarket, leave stacks at doctors’ offices, and write to famous women ranging from former First Ladies to Dear Abby. Her daughter, sister, and grandmother had all been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her ribbons were more than just a message to read and then forget. She advocated for disease prevention, increased accountability for better funding for breast cancer research, and the promotion of self-exams and testing. Charlotte never accepted payment for her efforts, instead directing funds to breast cancer research.
Charlotte’s efforts piqued the interest of Self magazine editor-in-chief Alexandra Penney and Estée Lauder senior vice president Evelyn Lauder. Both saw the enormous value in branding this image in their campaigns. Charlotte approached Self about incorporating the peach ribbon into their second annual breast cancer awareness issue, and Charlotte immediately declined the proposal, claiming that it was too corporate and commercial. With their hearts set on a ribbon campaign, Self and Estee Lauder changed the color of the ribbon from peach to the pink we are now familiar with after legal consultation.
1.5 million pink ribbons with a breast self-exam card were distributed at Estee Lauder counters. Each person who received a ribbon had their name written on a petition delivered to the White House to request more funding for breast cancer research.
The True Meaning of the Pink Breast Cancer Ribbon
To those who have experienced or are currently battling breast cancer, it may appear that the pink ribbon’s message is not always being heard and understood. It can get lost in insincere marketing and engagement-seeking campaigns.
Other than skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This heightens the importance of awareness.
Breast cancer awareness is an effort to reduce the stigma associated with the disease by educating people about the symptoms and treatment options. The pink ribbon’s global awareness has helped to increase early detection of breast cancer, make women more aware of the importance of regular breast self-examinations, and increase funds directed toward finding a cure.
What Can You Do to Stand By the True Meaning?
Here are a few pointers that show what we in our society can do to stand by the aboriginal meaning of the pink breast cancer ribbon.
- Arm yourself with all of the information. Get to know your own body and breasts. Learn how to look for lumps, bumps, and other changes. Inform a friend or family member of everything you’ve discovered.
- Make a one-time or monthly donation to assist a woman in need of screening and treatment.
- Volunteer with a charity such as Breast Cancer Charities of America (BCCA) or Susan G. Komen. You are assisting women in preventing, combating, and surviving breast cancer! Visit BCCA or Susan G Komen to learn more about volunteer opportunities.
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month should be promoted across all social media platforms.
- Tell us about how breast cancer has affected you or a loved one. Sharing can bring you comfort while also giving others hope and strength.
- Wear a pink ribbon with pride during October or all year. Shop pink to take it a step further! You can help support research and accessibility by shopping at participating retailers.
The Final Words
The first breast cancer awareness month was held in 1986, and ever since, the pink ribbon has become an international symbol 1991. The meaning of it is to provide more support to women combatting breast cancer.