The October Campaign and the Breast Cancer Ribbons

That little pink ribbon you happen to see every October in various media around us, is a part of the annual campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer. Among many other things, it also reminds us of the fact that breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women across the globe. (it accounts for 31% of female cancers in USA as of 2023, and it rarely affects men too)

This campaign generally aims to educate the world about the symptoms and prevention of breast cancer and to fund research into its causes, treatment, and cure. This happens through races, walks, social media campaigns, and other events throughout the month. For those who have been affected by breast cancer, it can also be a time to reflect, celebrate survival or honour those who were lost. People are encouraged to share their stories related to breast cancer during this period.

The American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries’ pharmaceutical division collaborated in 1985 to launch the Pink Month campaign, which aimed to promote mammography as a way to detect and prevent breast cancer.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bcribbon.jpg In 1991, a woman named Charlotte Haley, whose close relatives had survived breast cancer, began sending out peach ribbons to raise breast cancer awareness. The Susan G. Komen Foundation began awarding pink ribbons to race participants in New York City later that year. But it wasn’t until Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies, founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993 that the pink ribbon became the symbol for breast cancer awareness that we still associate with it today. The Pink Ribbon is a symbol of support and solidarity for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Pink was chosen as the colour of choice because of its feminine associations.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MetastaticBreastRibbon.png

In 2009, October 13 was established as the first annual Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day in the USA . Metastatic breast cancer or MBC (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer) is disease that has spread to other organs, usually the liver, lungs, brain or bones. While there is no cure for MBC, treatments can slow the cancer’s growth and spread. These treatments can extend a patient’s life, and also improve quality of life. Today, many MBC patients live 10 years or more after their diagnosis.

An MBC diagnosis is a very different experience than a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer. One may feel overwhelmed when looking for resources that address unanswered questions. Therefore it is realistic to embrace a reimagined breast-cancer-awareness ribbon that goes beyond pink. Also, since 30% of early-stage breast cancer patients will eventually see their disease return as metastatic, the fact that less than 5% of overall breast cancer funds raised had gone  towards researching treatments for metastatic breast cancer, didn’t make sense. Thus a tricolour ribbon, for metastatic breast cancer, aims to raise awareness for the need to direct funding toward the development of life-extending treatments. In it, green represents the triumph of spring over winter, life over death; teal symbolizes healing and spirituality; and a thin pink-ribbon overlay signifies metastatic cancer that originated in the breast.

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