On average, one woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 2.3 minutes. It’s a staggering figure. Extraordinary progress has been made in combating that statistic, but we still have so much more to do.

It’s hard to believe that 50 years ago the word cancer was taboo and the term breast cancer was rarely uttered, except by physicians.

When Betty Ford shared her story of battling and surviving breast cancer in 1974, she brought breast cancer out into the open. Tens of thousands of women went to their doctors for screenings in the weeks following her public statement. No longer was breast cancer a shameful secret.

In 1993, Evelyn Lauder, a pioneer, founded the Breast Cancer Research Fund (BCRF). Lauder’s advocacy brought breast cancer awareness to the forefront of America’s consciousness. She is the force responsible for the ubiquitous pink ribbon and even has her own category in the Guinness Book of World Records for getting the most historic landmarks lit up in pink — 38 in total. Lauder was one of the first to recognize that it took more than medicine to heal. She championed the importance of a pleasant environment in cancer treatment centers — soft lighting, beautiful art, flowers — and she saw the need for emotional care and counseling for cancer patients as well. Today, the BCRF has raised $350 million since its inception 19 years ago. This October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and the foundation is joining forces with passionate women and men who are lending their support to the cause.

In New York City, Suite New York, a modern contemporary design showroom has enlisted designers like Kelly Wearstler and David Rockwell for their Pink Jalk Project — an annual celebration and collaboration to rethink iconic pieces of furniture in the name of awareness (photographed above). And across the country, women’s sports teams are holding bake sales, while groups of friends train together for walks and marathons to help find a cure. Even architectural landmarks are showing their true colors. Earlier this month, Elizabeth Hurley helped turned on the Empire State Building’s light to pink.

This October, consider joining these trailblazing women in the fight against breast cancer. Not only will you be making a difference, but studies show volunteering increases your happiness too.

Samantha Boardman MD
Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and Public Health
Assistant Attending Psychiatrist
Weill Cornell Medical College