Capitol Connection: No-Shave November – Why Awareness is Key to Action

October 30, 2015

One of the most important steps in fighting cancer is raising awareness.

This time of year, with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and “No-Shave November” arriving this week, awareness is at the forefront.

Making people aware of a disease, how to get screenings, and how to support efforts to advance treatments and develop cures are all keys to creating a community that not only cares, but also knows how to take action.

This year, Connecticut’s legislature took steps to spread awareness and encourage action. We passed legislation to establish new “Men’s Health” license plates for prostate cancer awareness. We also voted on legislation to designate the third week in October as “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week” – an effort that was made official by a proclamation from the governor.

Following these efforts, I will be taking action personally by participating in “No-Shave November” this year – putting down my razor to raise funds and spread awareness for all forms of cancer.

No-Shave November may not be the most traditional way to raise awareness, but that’s one of the reasons why it can be so effective. The rules are simple: participants forgo shaving, embrace our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and evoke conversation to raise cancer awareness. In addition, participants can donate through to support the American Cancer Society, Prevent Cancer Foundation, Fight Colorectal Cancer, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

No-Shave November was officially used as a way to raise money for charity and spread awareness beginning in 2009 when the Chicagoland Hill family launched a campaign to honor their father, Matthew Hill, who passed away from colon cancer in November 2007. The movement started on Facebook as an easy way to raise money, and asked people to donate the money they would usually spend on shaving, from razors to salon fees, to a cancer fighting charity. Today, the No-Shave November organization has raised over $2 million and people participate all over the country.
Connecticut has a long history of promoting cancer awareness and screenings.

For example, in 2009 Connecticut passed a breast density notification law, the first of its kind in the country, requiring radiologists to inform people who undergo mammography if they have dense breast tissue, which can obscure cancer detection and which has better screening results through other methods such as an MRI or ultrasound. Many states have followed our lead.

Our state also recognizes many cancer awareness months, including November as lung cancer awareness month and October as breast cancer awareness month. In addition to the new prostate cancer awareness license plate, CT also has a “Cure Kids Cancer” plate which donates funds to Pediatric Oncology Units at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.

From government legislation to grassroots movements, spreading awareness in all forms is an important step in fighting cancer. If putting down my razor for a few weeks makes just one person think about the seriousness of cancer, charitable donations and the need to partake in screenings, then awareness is working. Awareness leads to action. Action is key to advancing the fight.