Inspired to Help? How to Be a Breast Cancer Advocate
09 May 2017
Whether you’ve finished your breast cancer journey or are just starting it, you’ve developed a passion for breast cancer advocacy. You know your voice is powerful. And your experience makes you an expert in dealing with breast cancer. Here are some tips for becoming a breast cancer advocate.
The great thing about breast cancer advocacy is that you can be as involved as you want to be. Perhaps you want to keep things simple and share your voice in the comfort of your own home. Or maybe you want to share your feelings with a large group. No matter what your goal is, there is plenty that you can do.
What Does A Breast Cancer Advocate Do?
Short answer: anything and everything that is needed to increase breast cancer awareness and research.
Long answer…well, the short answer pretty much covered it.
Most breast cancer advocates start out by advocating for themselves. During your breast cancer journey, you learn to speak up for yourself. You question your healthcare team, seek out second opinions, and read information about breast cancer and your treatment. Becoming a self advocate ensures you keep the treatment that you want.
During the course of being a self-advocate, you may realize that certain things are closed off to you or other women when they shouldn’t be. This can inspire you to become an advocate for women with breast cancer in general. As an overall advocate, you help other women learn about breast cancer and provide them with emotional support. You push for increased research in areas that you think are important and improve women’s access to financial assistance. Further, you work to get new laws and policies passed that relate to breast cancer issues.
Advocates really do anything and everything.
So, how do you become one?
Becoming a Breast Cancer Advocate
Fortunately, there is no specific time that you must become a breast cancer advocate. You simply become one when you feel it is right for you.
Figure Out the Role You Want
The first step to becoming a breast cancer advocate is figuring out the role you want to play. Like we mentioned before, you can be as involved in breast cancer advocacy as you want.
Think about whether you want to:
- Attend events for causes you care about
- Talk to other women one-on-one
- Discuss matters with community audiences
- Lobby for policy and law changes
- Participate on advisory panels and committee
- Or, travel to state capitals to lobby legislators in person.
Knowing how involved you want to be will guide you as you find the right advocacy group. But it’s not the only thing you need to think about.
As you become a breast cancer advocate, focus on matters that mean a lot to you. In most cases, this means advocating within your own care. Think about your own experiences and struggle and Focus on something that you personally experienced. While advocating outside your own care is great, it gives you more power and authority to work with individuals who have a similar experience and passion as you do.
Support Research as an Advocate
Being a research advocate means you shape research studies and help researchers figure out what questions to answer. You might think that this is impossible to do without being a researcher. But it’s actually not.
Advocating for breast cancer research requires that you stay educated about the science of breast cancer. Take online courses to learn about the newest scientific evidence about breast cancer or look through self-learning activities and lectures. There are even certain scientific conferences you can attend without being a member of a professional organization. Whichever way you choose to learn about breast cancer research, just make sure you learn.
With the knowledge you gain, you can join teams that help studies earn funding. There are various peer review boards for research programs that fund and apply grants to new studies. Such research programs including the California Breast Cancer Research Program and Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. By joining one of these boards, you are directly affecting which studies get completed.
You can also apply to become an advocate with Komen’s Advocates in Science. This community must make an ongoing commitment to improving the lives of people affected by breast cancer. It consists of healthcare professionals, advocacy individuals, and men and women who are passionate about learning about breast cancer research
Focus on Legislative Breast Cancer Advocacy
This type of breast cancer advocacy can cover several areas. Perhaps you are passionate about sending important funds to organizations you support. Or maybe you just want to see breast cancer laws change. Either way, legislative advocacy puts you in the role of influencing your lawmakers.
A good portion of legislative advocacy involves meeting legislators and discussing matters relating to breast cancer. Actually seeing and speaking to men and women affected by this disease affects their view. In their mind, breast cancer is no longer something that only affects their mothers or wives or staff. It is something that affects women of any age and in any community.
Part of becoming a legislative advocate involves a bit of learning, as well. You must take the time to find out who your local representatives are in the House and Senate. You can also learn about the status of legislative bills.
In addition to this information, try keeping important contact information on hand. This includes:
- The President of the United States: firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-456-1414
- The Vice President of the United States: email@example.com or 202-456-2326
- Library of Congress, congressional research: 202-707-570
Further, you can check whether a bill has been vetoed or signed by calling 202-456-2226 and state your opinion regarding certain issues at 202-456-1111
Join Organizations in the Fight
After you have an idea of what you want to do, you can start looking for organizations that need breast cancer advocates. There are tons of organizations like this and they all focus on varying aspects of breast cancer.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition relies on breast cancer advocates to improve breast cancer care and find a cure. It holds a summit in Washington, DC, every year to help women learn about breast cancer advocacy. You can also receive online and in-person advocacy training through the organization.
Meanwhile, Susan G. Komen looks for breast cancer advocates to help with it’s various efforts. Komen’s advocacy work targets everything from genetic testing to lymphedema and breast density matters. Each year, the organization lays out a summary of some of its advocacy priorities. For 2017 to 2018, Komen plans on supporting federal funding for biomedical research. It also hopes to support funding for the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.
There is also Living Beyond Breast Cancer. This organization focuses on providing services and programs to individuals affected by breast cancer. However, it regularly advocates for policies and legislation that affects women’s quality of life. And it maintains a great list of resources of other organizations that you may be able to help.
Beyond these three organizations, feel free to check out other breast cancer groups for their advocacy needs. This can include Men Against Breast Cancer, the Young Survivor Coalition, and Mothers Supporting Daughters with Breast Cancer.
Smaller Ways to Get Involved
You may not have the necessary free time to work as a full-time legislative or research advocate. Fortunately, there are numerous ways for you to still help:
- Write a letter to the editor.
- Call a television or radio talk show.
- Send a letter to your political appointee and lawmakers.
These advocacy methods are just as effective as other methods and they help you make your voice heard. They just take up less time than full-time advocacy work.
Whether you want to spend several hours a day working as a breast cancer advocate – or you just want to do what you can when you can—there is no shortage of methods for making your voice heard.