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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How to support breast cancer awareness and research

Here are some ways you can support the cause beyond wearing pink

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Every October, the world busts out the hot pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

It’s an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities in the U.S. with a mission of raising funds for research into the causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of the disease. Professional athletes trade in their team colors for pink gear, and stores flood their racks and websites with pink items.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Susan G. Komen estimates that there will be 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 42,690 deaths in 2020 alone.

Though many in-person events will likely be stymied due to the coronavirus pandemic, supporting breast cancer awareness and research is no less important.

The importance of accessible healthcare for all women

The yearly statistics are sobering, but breast cancer mortality rates have declined 40% from 1989 to 2016, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization attributes this to earlier detection, illustrating the importance of raising awareness of this disease and supporting organizations that help all people receive the care they need, regardless of race, income level or insurance.

See related: Managing the costs of women’s preventive healthcare

Mortality rates are not declining equally. Although white women are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than Black women, white women are less likely to die from the disease. Between 2013 and 2017, breast cancer mortality was 39% higher among Black women than white women, according to Susan G. Komen. The organization speculates that this disparity could be caused by less access to follow-up care after an abnormal mammogram.

Another study questioned the quality of mammograms that many women receive. Minority women are more likely to be served by a public institution than white women. These clinics are less likely to have digital mammography and dedicated breast imaging specialists, which can lead to poor quality care.

See related: Overcoming the pay gap as a woman of color

Avoiding ‘pinkwashing’

Just because an item for purchase features a pink ribbon, it doesn’t necessarily mean the purchase actually benefits breast cancer research and finding a cure. The term “pinkwashing” refers to a company’s claims that it supports breast cancer programs when its contributions to a breast cancer charity aren’t directly tied to the purchases consumers make.

“There are a variety of businesses that do that, and they’re not transparent in how they’re generating money for the cause and what the consumer is actually doing to impact the cause,” says Lisa Giuroiu, vice president for corporate partnerships at Susan G. Komen.

Ultimately, if you’re not sure a company will truly turn your donation into a benefit for a breast cancer charity (or the company won’t tell you which breast cancer organizations will get the money), you may want to make a direct donation to a charity instead.

Where to donate

It can be tough to discern whether you’re donating to a reputable organization. Breast cancer charities are no exception. Groups such as Charity Watch and Charity Navigator are great resources if you’re not sure if the charity you’re contemplating is the best one.

According to Charity Navigator, it’s best to research how much of a charity’s total expenses are spent on programs or services before you donate online. A reputable breast cancer charity should spend about 75% on programs and services. Ideally, a minimum of 25% should go toward administrative expenses for overhead costs, including hiring and paying employees.

Here are some of the most reputable breast cancer charities, according to both Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy:

Other ways to contribute

Americans are facing lots of economic uncertainty, and many may not be able to budget for monetary donations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in other ways.

Attending events

Organizations like Susan G. Komen and the American Cancer Society typically host in-person fundraising events throughout the month of October to raise awareness and support for this cause. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, most organizations are hosting virtual events instead.

For example, Susan G. Komen is hosting virtual races in major cities across the country. The events will start with an online presentation featuring stories from survivors and those currently living with breast cancer and an update on the organization’s impact to date. You’ll then be encouraged to participate in the race in your own neighborhood. The American Cancer Society is hosting similar virtual events.

Susan G. Komen® Cash Rewards Visa® credit card from Bank of America*

The Susan G. Komen credit card allows you to earn cash back rewards, while also giving back.

“The beauty of the card is that a donation is made to Komen while at the same time, the consumer is getting their own cash back rewards,” Giuroiu said.

You can earn 3% on the category of your choice – gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement and furnishings – plus 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on other purchases. For every new card that is used to make a transaction and remains open for the first 90 days, Susan G. Komen will receive $3 and 0.08% of all retail purchases. The organization will also receive $3 for each renewal of a card that was in good standing during the 12 month period and doesn’t have a zero balance at the time of renewal.

“People can make a difference by using this credit card and using it on a regular basis. They’re able to make an impact without thinking about it,” Giuroiu says.

Since 2009, Susan G. Komen has received more than $10.3 million from this Bank of America program.

“From a credit card perspective, this is one way that people can do something very, very easy to join the fight and help find the cures that need to be found,” Giuroiu says. “Everyone has the ability to impact and save a life. Everyone can be a part of the solution.”

See related: New credit card aims to beat the pink tax with targeted rewards

Donating rewards

If you’re looking for a way to use your credit card, hotel or airline rewards, you might be able to donate your points or miles to causes you support. Here are some ways you can do it:

Donating cash back rewards: Once you cash out your rewards, you’re free to donate that money wherever you want. This is fairly easy with a cash back card, but you might also be able to do it with a travel card, though it will likely come with a lower redemption rate than other options.

Purchasing charity gift cards: If you have an American Express card with Membership Rewards or a Wells Fargo card with GoFar rewards, you can use your rewards to purchase a charity gift card to JustGiving or CharityChoice, respectively. Both programs partner with many different organizations, including those focused on breast cancer research and advocacy.

Donating hotel and airline rewards: Many hotel and airline loyalty programs give you options to donate your points and miles to a select group of organizations. Options are usually limited, but certain programs might host giving campaigns for breast cancer awareness during the month of October. Watch your loyalty program of choice for more information.

The bottom line

There is much work to be done, according to Giuroiu, and it goes far beyond just wearing pink.

“It seems there has been complacency around breast cancer and the urgency that has existed has waned somewhat,” Giuroiu adds. “Our perspective is that that’s not OK. Breast cancer is killing people. We find that to be absolutely unacceptable.”

*All information about the Susan G. Komen® Cash Rewards Visa® credit card from Bank of America has been collected independently by and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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