October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, but nurses are always central to improving awareness of cancer prevention, screening and treatment strategies. Breast cancer is still the most common cancer among women in the US. The good news is that the death rate from the disease is falling, according to a recent American Cancer Society report. Though there have been many wins, the fight is still far from over.pink-ribbon

This month, as always, it is a key part of many nurse’s jobs to emphasize the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes and potentially life-saving procedures like  self-exams and mammograms. There are many misconceptions in the general population about causes of cancer, treatment options and survival rates. Patients (and friends and family, too) should be encouraged to consult knowledgeable experts like their family physician, or even reliable online sources like WebMd or the Susan G Komen Foundation.

Nurses often deal with the physical and emotional consequences of cancer in their patients.  Patients and their loved ones can feel helpless in the face of a frightening diagnosis. Volunteering is a great way to regain some personal control, and October is the month to do it. Many organizations sponsor walks, runs, and even special shopping nights. The American Cancer Society’s local event finder tool is a great place to start looking for one in your area: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PAR/PAR_9_Calendar_Of_Events.asp.  (Especially useful if you’re a travel nurse and want to participate but are new to your location.)

Nurses — along with all health care workers — get a special boost out of participating in local breast cancer awareness events.  Getting involved demonstrates your concern for the community as well as support for your own friends and family.