Helen Kuhl is Editorial Director of Imaging Technology News.
It's a Pink Time of Year
We Americans like to celebrate a lot, giving special recognition to all sorts of things that are near and dear to our hearts. We dedicate a day, week or month to create such eclectic events as National Eggs Benedict Day (April 16), National Crochet Week (mid-March), National Blueberry Month (in July, according to an official proclamation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, no less) and National Piano Month (September).
While some celebrations are whimsical or motivated by self-interest (National Tortilla Chip Day, Feb. 24, must be a happy day for snack food manufacturers), there are some annual activities truly deserving of special recognition. At the top of my list is the current month of October, recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the past 25 years.
There are many activities and widespread support for this event everywhere this month, and I imagine that for most of us, the sight of so much pink is poignant. With the chance of a woman developing invasive breast cancer at some time in her life being a little less than 1 in 8 (according to the American Cancer Society), odds are we all have someone in our lives who has had the disease. So this month is personal, and we feel connected to the efforts to increase awareness and lend support.
For women, increased awareness can bring with it a sense of confusion, however. When should I have my first mammogram? Should I take hormones after menopause? Should I get genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations? What should I do if I have dense breast tissue? There is a lot of awareness about breast cancer, but guidelines and recommendations about diagnosis or treatment are not so straightforward. We would love to have a clear path to breast health, but we don’t.
The heartening factor, especially for those in the radiology world, is there have been so many technological advances related to breast health that the future is hopeful. There not only have been improvements that contribute to more accurate, earlier diagnosis and better treatment, but also efforts to make the process of having a mammogram, biopsy or radiotherapy more comfortable and less stressful. Both in the equipment being used and in the caring attitude exhibited by healthcare providers, the focus is on making the patient experience as easy as possible. Every time I talk to someone involved in breast care, including vendors of systems or software, it is evident how much it means to them to be intimately involved in making improvements.
As we pay homage this month to the survivors and remember those lost to breast cancer, I also give tribute to those who are working 12 months a year developing new technology to improve the odds for the future. While kudos can go to healthcare providers working on every disease and medical condition, this month there is an extra ring of pink around everything.