Pink October: all about the campaign, the goal and the history

According to recent data from the National Cancer Institute (INCA), as of 2018, it is estimated that about 59,700 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Brazil per year. The number indicates that for every 100 thousand women, about 56 develop the condition.

The alarming data position the neoplasm as the second one that most affects women worldwide. Faced with reality, the best measure remains prevention.

This is what drives the Pink October, a month dedicated to the dissemination of information about rights and the importance of looking closely at women’s health.

More than collecting data, the campaign aims to guarantee women care, medical assistance and emotional support, guaranteeing prevention, diagnosis and quality treatment.


What is Pink October?

The Pink October is a worldwide campaign held annually in the month of October, which seeks to raise awareness among women about the prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer, increasing the chances of cure and reducing mortality. The campaign is symbolized by the pink bow.

During the month of October, several institutions – both public and private – provide free or reduced price exams, in order to encourage women to undergo these exams and treat any problem found early, since, in the early stages, breast cancer he is asymptomatic and responds much better to treatments.

Breast cancer is the second most common type among women worldwide, second only to non- melanoma skin cancer (such as basal cell carcinoma). Of all new cases of the disease each year, about 25% are breast cancer.

Objective of October Rose

The Pink October aims to make women aware of the importance of prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer, which has a high chance of cure when discovered early.

Even so, most diagnoses end up being late.

Although it is focused on breast cancer, many institutions also take advantage of the month to talk about other neoplasms that can occur in the female reproductive system, such as ovarian or cervical cancer, for example.


The Pink October was not exactly instituted by a person, because at the end of the 20th century, some American states promoted isolated actions to raise awareness about the disease.

Gradually, the initiatives were amplified and gained visibility, until the American Congress made October official as the national breast cancer prevention month.

But it is worth mentioning here an important institution for the date to come to life. In 1982, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, founded by Nancy Brinker , started to promote studies and disseminate information about breast cancer.

In 1983, intending to give more visibility to the importance of the project and the theme and to raise funds for research, the institute promoted the first “Walk for Life”, in Dallas. The event had about 800 participants and marked the beginning of an action that would gain worldwide dimensions.

A few years later, in 1991, the so-called pink ribbons were distributed to all and all participants in the Walk for Life in New York, making the pink bow the official symbol of the campaign.

Since then, the institution continues to promote races annually in favor of the fight against breast cancer, but the history of the pink ribbon came only in 1997: in order to raise awareness, the cities were decorated with pink ribbons in public places and during events.

In Brazil, the first known action of the Pink October took place in 2002, in Ibirapuera Park, in São Paulo: the Obelisk Mausoleum for the Constitutionalist Soldier, better known as the Ibirapuera Obelisk, was lit up in pink by a group of women sympathizers with the cause.

As of 2008, actions have become more and more frequent. Several entities related to breast cancer started to illuminate monuments and buildings in pink, making the message clear: it is necessary to be prevented.

Pink October Symbol: Pink Bow

Worldwide recognized, the pink bow is the symbol of the fight against breast cancer. But how did it come about?

Initially, the ties began to be used in the United States in the 1970s by Lenney Laingen, a woman whose husband was held hostage in Iran. These yellow ties were hung by her and her friends on some trees, and the goal was for the husband to come home.

The idea of ​​awareness bonds became popular and, in the 90s, it was the turn of breast cancer to receive its own ribbon. During the New York City Healing Race of 1991, pink ribbons were distributed to all participants. However, at that time, it was still not a very strong symbol.

In 1992, Estée Lauder Cosmetics, a cosmetics company, was responsible for popularizing the pink bow worldwide.

Initially, its color was orange, made by a lady named Charlotte Hayley. She sold the bows along with a card that said that only 5% of the annual budget of the National Cancer Institute was intended for prevention. His goal was to convince people that this had to change, putting pressure on the government.

All of this caught the attention of Alexandra Penney, chief editor of the magazine “Self” at the time, and Evelyn Lauder, vice president of the cosmetic company Estée Lauder Cosmetics, who wanted to invest in the idea.

However, Hayley refused to link her ties to the commercial images of the two businesswomen, making the negotiations less fruitful. However, the two businesswomen decided to launch the bow tie campaign anyway, just changing the color to pink.

With the popularization of this symbol, which was distributed in the United States by several companies, it became known as the worldwide symbol of the fight against breast cancer.

In 1997, an organization decided to take the symbol for itself: Pink Ribbon International. It is a non-governmental non-profit organization that focuses on the fight against breast cancer. This organization is present in more than 15 countries around the world.

Breast cancer

Being the 2nd cancer that most affects women in Brazil and worldwide, according to the National Cancer Institute (INCA), breast cancer is a malignant neoplasm that affects the breast tissue.

It appears when there is a genetic mutation in any cell, which causes the uncontrolled multiplication of abnormal cells. Such multiplication forms a tumor that can grow very quickly, but it can also have a slow course.

Some factors can influence the chances of developing cancer, such as having menstruated before the age of 12, not having children, having become pregnant for the first time after the age of 30, not having breastfed, having undergone hormone replacement, among others.

There are also environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors, such as obesity after menopause , frequent exposure to radiation, physical inactivity, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages and cases in the family.

In order to have a better chance of cure, the tumor must be identified early. Tests such as mammography , which must be done frequently from the age of 50, are essential for the discovery of a cancer that can be treated quickly.


Most of the time, cancer can be detected in its early stages, even before it has any symptoms. This is because there are tests such as mammography, which uses radiation to create images from inside the breast, which may reveal the presence of very small tumors.

Most women end up discovering cancer on their own, through self-examination, which consists of palpating the breasts and surrounding regions in search of a lump.

However, self-examination only serves as a diagnosis when cancer is already more advanced : while mammography is able to detect tumors smaller than 1 cm (at an early stage), the lump can only be perceived in self-examination when it reaches 2 centimeters – decreasing the chances of cure.

For this reason, self-examination does not dispense with mammography, which is an x-ray of the breasts capable of detecting early changes.

The exam performed as a preventive method must be done every 2 years by all women between 50 and 69 years of age.

If there is any suspicion or alteration in the breast tissue identified by the doctor, the patient should undergo a diagnostic mammogram in order to further investigate the condition, but only laboratory tests (histopathology) can certify the cancer.

But women who fit into the risk groups, having a greater predisposition, may need to undergo the exam more often.

Breast self-examination: step by step

Although mammography is the most suitable method to detect cancer, self-examination is also important, especially for those who do not have access to mammography at the moment.

The self-examination should be done once a month, about 3 to 5 days after the first day of menstruation, because at that time the breast is less swollen and painful, making it easier to detect any changes.

For women who no longer menstruate, the test should be done on a fixed date every month.

The examination should be done without a blouse and without a bra, so that there is no interference from the tissue, preferably in front of the mirror or lying down, looking for the presence of lumps, changes in the skin or nipple, secretions of the breasts or bumps.

To take the exam, follow the steps below:

In front of the mirror

  1. With your arms drooping and relaxed, watch your breasts;
  2. Raise your arms and watch them again;
  3. Place your hands on your hips, applying pressure, and watch them again.

These 3 ways to observe the breasts serve to notice if there are visually noticeable changes, such as differences in the size, shape and color of the breasts, in addition to bumps, depressions in the skin, bumps or roughness.


  1. Lift your left arm, placing your hand behind your head;
  2. With your right hand, carefully touch the left breast, making circular movements, converging towards the nipple, up and down;
  3. Press the nipple gently;
  4. Repeat the process on the right breast;

Palpation should be done with the fingers together and straight, with circular movements and from top to bottom across the breast, going towards the armpits. Then, it is recommended to press the nipple to check if there is no secretion.

If you feel something different, check that there is not the same thing in the other: sometimes the breasts have some textures that confuse, but if it is present in both breasts, it is probably nothing to worry about.

Symptoms beyond the “lump”

Feeling a lump in the breasts is what many believe to be the only sign of breast cancer. Although the disease is usually asymptomatic in the early stages, while the tumor is small, as the cancer develops, other symptoms appear. Are they:

  • Changes in the shape or size of the breast;
  • Abnormal looking skin, similar to orange peel;
  • Redness, heat and pain, in the case of inflammatory breast cancer;
  • Wounds and crusts on the skin of the nipple (nipple);
  • Frequent itching in the areola and nipple;
  • Inversion of the nipple / sunken nipple;
  • Release of secretions or blood through the nipple;
  • Swelling and lumps in the armpits.

The Pink October, currently, is a worldwide action and of great impact, which brings information, assistance and support to women, in order to prevent, treat and monitor each case.

The actions are spread over dozens of places and you can find activities, walks, courses, in addition to having exams or medical assistance focused on the approach of breast cancer. Discover the campaigns, join the initiatives and decorate your health with this pink bow.

Join the cause and help more women become aware of it!