Health
3:30 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Think Pink: It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month

From the grocery store to the high school football game, you’re likely to start seeing pink everywhere this month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and local nonprofits are ramping up their efforts to raise public consciousness about the disease.

Kathy Purcell, chief executive officer of Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh, said people will sometimes ask her if there’s just a little too much pink.

“My answer … is just a resounding no,” said Purcell. “As long as women are still dying from this disease, I don’t think there is too much. And what we know is that every 13 minutes in this country a woman dies from breast cancer.”

She said the proliferation of pink in October has a real effect on women’s health.

“If a woman is in a grocery store and she sees a pink wrapper and that reminds her to get a mammogram, then it’s been successful,” Purcell said. “A husband is watching an NFL football game and sees pink and asks his wife if she’s had a mammogram.”

Purcell said that while Komen representatives will be attending and speaking at events in the Pittsburgh area throughout the month, the local organization is also planning two events of their own.

The annual Paws for the Cure Dog Walk is scheduled for Sunday, October 6 in Allison Park. Last year, more than 800 people and 600 dogs participated in the event.

On Oct. 27, Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh will hold their annual Survivor Brunch.

“It’s a great coming together," Purcell said. "You look around and you see all of these survivors together in the room. Macy’s helps us to do a fashion show and the models are actually survivors. It’s always a lot of fun.”

While the Susan G. Komen focuses largely on encouraging women over 40 to get regular mammograms, another local organization reaches out to younger women, who may not realize they are at risk.

Not only is Jennifer Kehm of Peters Township a co-founder of the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, but also she's a breast cancer survivor.

Kehm was diagnosed with the disease 13 years ago at the age of 36.

“People think, ‘Oh, I don’t have to worry about that until I’m 40,’” Kehm said. “Unfortunately, some women do get breast cancer under 40 and they might not find out for several months or perhaps even years because they’re unaware that they’re at risk.”

Kehm says her organization is focusing on two major awareness-building campaigns this month.

For the fifth year in a row, area high schools and colleges will hold “Pink Outs” at football games and other sporting events on Oct. 25. Fans and cheerleaders at a few dozen schools will deck out in pink and collect funds to support her organization.

Kehm said he idea for the “Pink Outs” came about after the nonprofit lost one of its members to breast cancer.

“Her daughter was the captain of the cheerleading squad in Mt. Lebanon, and she had asked if they could turn the stadium pink in honor of her mom and to help raise funds for the organization that she was a part of,” Kehm said. “The athletic director, John Grogan, also sent an e-mail out to his partners, the athletic directors across Western Pennsylvania, and they all jumped on board. It was amazing.”

The foundation is also getting support from Panera Bread, who will be selling “Pink Ribbon bagels” throughout the month of October.

Kehm said a portion of the proceeds will benefit Young Women’s Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation and other breast cancer-related nonprofits.

“They are shaped in the form of a ribbon, and they are just decadent bagels. You have to taste them,” Kehm said. “They have vanilla, cinnamon, and they have cranberries and cherries; they’re fantastic.”

Kathy Purcell said Breast Cancer Awareness Month not only helps to raise money and encourage women to get regular mammograms, but also it sends a message to women who are struggling with breast cancer.

“It’s a great way for all of those survivors to know that they’re not in this battle alone and that there’s a lot of people supporting them,” Purcell said.