Since 1985, the month of October has been designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a goal of promoting mammography as the most effective weapon in the battle against breast cancer.
Each year during October, a variety of events including walks, runs, and fundraisers are organized throughout the United States to promote awareness to this cause which has affected so many lives.
The iconic pink ribbon is a symbol for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many prominent landmarks around the world are illuminated with pink lighting throughout the month of October in observance.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide and the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Each year over a quarter of a million women are diagnosed and more than 40,500 will die from the disease. It is estimated that one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
There is good news, however, as death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1989 and breast cancer incidence rates began decreasing in the year 2000 thanks in part to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), along with better screening, early detection, increased awareness and continually improving treatment options.
In fact, for many of the 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., the month of October and the awareness campaign offers a reason to celebrate and reflect.
How to help
There are many ways for you to get involved with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The obvious ones include volunteering your time or making a donation to local or national charitable organizations that focus on awareness, research, prevention, and treatment of the disease.
Keep in mind that not all of the “pink” charities are alike and some are less than transparent about where your donations end up. Watchdog groups like Charity Watch and Charity Navigator are typically good sources of more in-depth analysis of organizations as they review and evaluate financial statements, tax reports, program expenses and fundraising costs.
The American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Watch recognizes 12 organizations as top-rated cancer charities and assigns letter grades to each one. Here are their top three in descending order:
- Breast Cancer Research Foundation (A+ rating)
- National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund (A rating)
- Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (formerly Breast Cancer Fund) (A- rating)
Of the three breast cancer charities recommended by Charity Watch, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation also received Charity Navigator’s highest rating of four stars while the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund and the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners received three stars.
Other national four-star charities recommended by Charity Navigator include:
- National Breast Cancer Foundation
- Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation
- Lynn Sage Cancer Center Research Foundation
Susan G. Komen
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is one of the largest and most well-known charities devoted to the cause, but according to the watchdog groups, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Charity Navigator gives the organization a 3-star rating (out of four), while Charity Watch gave them a C+ grade.
Charities to avoid
In recent years, the Federal Trade Commission has dissolved Breast Cancer Society and the Cancer Fund of America after alleging they were scam charities bilking money from donors. Those two organizations are now defunct, but there are still some groups that are low-rated for various reasons.
Charity Navigator urges people to do their own research before donating to charitable organizations but also cites three groups in particular as ones to avoid due to the fact that they spend more on fundraising than devoting funds to the issues. The watchdog group gave the following organizations zero or one star and cautions you to look carefully before supporting them: