“National Days” give us a reason to celebrate and reflect on the little and the big things in life, every day. October 31st is not just Halloween. It’s also National Doorbell Day, National Magic Day and National Caramel Apple Day. If you get lost in the many daily observances, maybe the “National Months” are more manageable for you. For example, January is National Bath Safety Month, National Soup Month, National Hobby Month and Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. In fact, amid the little things like soup, caramel apples and doorbells, there is a reminder, every month, to turn our attention towards more serious issues. Let’s take a look at the call to action each month presents, in regard to a major health issue that affects many of us, cancer. Below you'll find a list of each cancer awareness month.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The symbolic ribbon colors are teal and white. This cancer has a slow progression which, fortunately, leaves a lot of room for prevention and effective treatment. There is even an applicable vaccine now. It is of great benefit, especially to the women in our lives, that we all become educated in this type of cancer and its prevention.
February is Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month. The symbolic ribbon color is kelly green. One might assume that the color of the ribbon is related to the color of bile, which can sometimes be green, making it easier to draw the connection to this particular cancer. Fortunately, this cancer is rare. February is also National Cancer Prevention Month, a great time to focus our attention on things we can do to lower our cancer risk, such as exercise, not smoking and vaccination.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, symbolized by the dark blue ribbon. There has also been a new awareness symbol created for colorectal cancer, the blue star, which combines the ribbon with a star. For many, the blue color of this new symbol represents strength and regality, while the human-likeness of the ribbon-star combination represents hope, awareness, power and remembrance of those affected. March is also Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month, the burgundy ribbon, and National Kidney Cancer Awareness Month, the orange ribbon. The burgundy ribbon may be symbolic of multiple myeloma being a “blood cancer,” and the orange ribbon might be a result of the link found between Agent Orange and kidney cancers in veterans.
April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, the orchid ribbon. For this month, purple (orchid) is not just for girls. It is a reminder that the men in our lives can be affected by this particular cancer, and when they are, it affects more than just the patient. Awareness is key, for everyone. “Orchid” is a derivative of orchis, the ancient Greek word for testicle. April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, too. Folks sport the periwinkle ribbon or plant an actual periwinkle plant, which can also be done virtually, online, through donations to the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association. You might see lots of burgundy and ivory ribbons being worn in April because it is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. A common symptom of this cancer is red or white patches in the mouth.
May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month, the grey ribbon. This is a cancer that children and adults have to fight, including, coincidentally, Kate Walsh of Grey’s Anatomy fame. This is also Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the black ribbon. In fact, most melanomas are black or brown. It’s Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, too, with one of the most colorful ribbons, the marigold/blue/purple ribbon. The bladder cancer ribbon used to be all yellow, but now, the yellow ribbon is worn for sarcoma/bone cancer.
June doesn’t focus on just one cancer, but, rather, the survivors of all cancers. June is National Cancer Survivors Month, and all cancers are represented by a light purple or lavender ribbon. June is the perfect month to celebrate the strength that we all have to fight cancer, no matter what type, and the lives of those touched by this disease.
July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. Just like the “Support Our Troops” ribbon, the sarcoma ribbon is yellow. This cancer is rare, but deeply affects those afflicted by it and their loved ones. The yellow ribbon is often coupled with sunflowers, as a symbol of hope and to lighten what can be a dark time in one’s life.
August isn’t necessarily a cancer awareness month, but it still offers opportunity for reflection and change, in regard to cancer. August 1st is World Lung Cancer Day. August is also Summer Sun Safety Month. With skin cancer being the most common type of cancer, this is a great time to help folks minimize the risk involved in enjoying the summer sun. National Health Center Week takes place in August, too, with many facilities choosing to place emphasis on cancer-related topics during this time.
With August not being a specific cancer awareness month, September goes on double duty, and then some, with eight areas of awareness. September is Gynecological Cancer (peach ribbon), Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (violet), Leukemia (orange), Lymphoma (lime green), Ovarian Cancer (teal), Thyroid Cancer (teal/pink/blue) and Prostate Cancer (light blue) Awareness Month. In addition to the many ribbon colors that one might see in the month of September, the gold ribbon stands out as a symbol of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Gold is a precious metal, and there is nothing more precious to us then our children. As stated on www.internationalchildhoodcancerday.org, when addressing the history behind the childhood cancer golden ribbon, “Gold goes through a process by fire, to become stronger and tougher. Kids with childhood cancer similarly undergo such an experience. They often develop resiliency by facing all the difficult and painful challenges of childhood cancer.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the pink ribbon, the most famous ribbon of them all. Pink ribbons, pink socks, pink T-shirts, pink bracelets, pink has become the official color for the fight against breast cancer, probably due to it being a highly “feminine” cancer, the most common cancer among women of all races and ethnicity. October is definitely a month where you will see pink everywhere, but you will also see emerald green ribbons in support of Liver Cancer Awareness Month. Jade ribbons are specific to the fight against hepatitis B and liver cancer, especially among Asian and Pacific Islander communities where the jade stone is highly regarded for purity, good luck and prosperity.
The last cancer awareness month of the year, but definitely not the least important, is November, which focuses on four cancers. November is Lung Cancer (white), Carcinoid Cancer (zebra stripe), Pancreatic Cancer (Purple) and Stomach Cancer (periwinkle) Awareness Month. Yes, pancreatic cancer shares the periwinkle ribbon with esophageal cancer, and it’s also the color of the eating disorder awareness ribbon. The zebra stripe of the carcinoid ribbon comes from a well-known saying learned in medical school, “When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras,” which means look for more common possibilities when making a diagnosis, not uncommon or rare ones. The lung cancer’s white ribbon might be associated with the fact that the cancer appears as a white mass in patient x-rays. Let’s not forget that November is also National Family Caregivers Month, the plum ribbon. Needless to say, when someone is stricken with cancer, those closest to them are also greatly affected. For those who do their best to promote the wellness of the patient, this month seeks to send some appreciation and support their way.
December is not a cancer awareness month. It is a season to celebrate and, hopefully, find time to be joyous, thankful and forward-looking. It is the perfect month to embrace spirituality, loved ones and life, itself, no matter what challenges we might face.
National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable - http://nccrt.org/about/public-education/bluestar-artwork/
Testicular Cancer Society - http://www.testicularcancersociety.org/tc_awareness.html
Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association - https://www.ecaware.org/community/plant-a-periwinkle/
Skin Care Foundation - https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma
American Cancer Society - https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer.html
International Childhood Cancer Day - http://www.internationalchildhoodcancerday.org/goldribbon.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/index.htm