Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Israel Brings Hope

“Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee, and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee, with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that coucheth beneath, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb.” (Genesis 49:25)

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the world, and Israel is no exception. This is the time of year when the Israel Cancer Association increases its educational activities, and it has released some encouraging statistics to commemorate this year’s event.

The ICA’s statistics are taken from the National Cancer Registry of the Ministry of Health, and reflect “up-to-date facts and new research studies”. According to the ICA’s website, for the first time ever, a downward trend in mortality rates has been recorded for both Jewish (30 percent drop) and Arab (25 percent drop) women in Israel.

The National Cancer Registry tracks both invasive and in-situ (malignant but as-yet non-invasive) cancer. While the overall rate of invasive breast cancer among Arab women continues to rise, the survival rate does, too. For Jewish women, both the incidence of invasive cancer and the mortality rate have dropped in recent years. For in-situ cancer, both Jewish and Arab women have seen a rise in diagnoses, but this is a positive trend, because the earlier cancer is detected, the greater the chances of recovery.

Today, some 19,010 women throughout Israel who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2005-2009 are classified as survivors or are continuing to battle the disease. The current survival rate for breast cancer surpasses 85 percent.

Relative to the rest of the world, Israel ranks fifth in incidences of cancer, but only ninth in mortality, and is showing a downward trend.

The ICA encourages women to learn their own bodies and watch for changes to catch breast cancer early. Routine mammograms are recommended for women between the ages of 50 and 79, and according to  Prof. Gad Rennert, who previously ran the national breast cancer program, compliance is about 70 percent among both Jewish and Arab women in Israel, with the ultra-Orthodox community lagging slightly at only 63 percent.

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Twelve years ago, the ICA launched its mobile mammography truck to enable women in more remote locations to access this important service.

This year, along with Estee Lauder Companies, the ICA is selling t-shirts to raise awareness of and money for breast cancer and its research. The black shirts, available to both men and women, say “This is a Pink Shirt”, a reference to the company’s Breast Cancer Awareness pink ribbon campaign, launched in 1992.

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres hosting a Breast Cancer Awareness (Photo: Official Facebook Page of Shimon Peres)
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres hosting a Breast Cancer Awareness party at the Peres Center for Peace. (Photo: Official Facebook Page of Shimon Peres)

“The project has one goal, which is the most important goal: To remind all women in Israel that early detection saves lives,” said Oren Revach, general manager of the Estée Lauder Companies in Israel. “This year, the project allows men and women to walk around with a shirt serving as a stylish and fashionable reminder of the recommended medical examination.

“In addition, anyone who buys the shirt will feel part of the Israel Cancer Association’s activity through the donation transferred in their name.”

ICA Director-General Miri Ziv lauded the company’s involvement. “Estée Lauder’s willingness to join the battle against breast cancer is highly appreciated and strengthens our activity on the national and international level.”

The shirts run NIS 49.90 (about $13.50 US) and are available at all MAC and Bobbi Brown locations in Israel, as well as online through the DrugStore and Time Out store sites.  All proceeds go to the ICA.

The Pink Shirt project launched earlier this month at the Peres Center for Peace, where former President Shimon Peres attended the event in a pink tie and the building was lit up in pink.