Cancer awareness ribbons and what do they represent?

As individuals, awareness is the first step toward cancer. Today, we see one of the common ways to spread awareness is looped colored ribbons. Surely you have seen someone walking around with a pink ribbon or a red one. These two colors are the most common colors, red for AIDS and pink for breast cancer. These are called ‘cancer awareness ribbons’. They are different colored ribbons symbolizing different cancers. But here is the thing, we don’t know the colors of many of these ribbons.

Here is a list of a few common cancers and their respective awareness ribbons

PINK – Breast Cancer

Pink awareness ribbon stands for breast cancer, which is one of the most common types of cancer found in women, it can also affect men. It develops from the breast tissue with the signs including lumps, change in the size of breast, patchy skin, and an inverted nipple. About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime but with early detection, there is a good chance of recovery with treatment options such as a total mastectomy (removal of an entire breast) followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. For some patients who are HER2 (a gene that is supposed to produce breast cells) positive, targeted therapy is added to the regimen.

ORANGE – Leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood or the bone marrow, this can happen when there is a problem with the production of blood cells. It usually affects the white blood cells and is common with those under 15 years. Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplantation, and surgery.

EMERALD – Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is identified with an emerald cancer awareness ribbon, this type of cancer occurs when there is significant damage to the liver. Liver cancer has a low survival rate and symptoms do not appear until the cancer is advanced. The best way to detect this type of cancer is by having an awareness of the potential signs such as right-sided abdominal pain, right shoulder blade pain, jaundice, itching, feeling of bloatedness and rapid weight gain/loss. If detected early, treatment options include surgery and transplant of the liver.

WHITE AND TEAL – Cervical Cancer

White and teal awareness ribbon represents cancer which arises from the cervix and usually affects sexually active women from the age of 30-45. Yet again this type of cancer does not have any symptoms in the early stages. Some of the symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding after sex or new bleeding after menopause.

Treatment for this cancer is a combination of radiation and chemotherapy or removal of both the uterus and cervix.

PERIWINKLE BLUE – Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer, also known as Gastric cancer is the 5th most common cancer worldwide. It is identified with a periwinkle blue cancer awareness ribbon. This cancer is basically a buildup of abnormal cells that eventually form a cancerous mass in part of the stomach. Early symptoms are as simple as heartburn, persistent indigestion, and difficulty swallowing. If detected early, the treatment involves surgical removal of the infected part of the stomach, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

TEAL – Ovarian Cancer

It is 10th most common cancer in women where it affects the uterus, cervix and the ovaries. If diagnosed in early stages, the chances of surviving are high. It affects women after the age of 40 and it is rare for women before 40 to be affected. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to that of cervical cancer. The treatment may consist of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or targeted therapy.

LIGHT BLUE – Prostate Cancer

Light blue awareness ribbon identifies prostate cancer which occurs in the prostate is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Usually, prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly. The treatment of prostate cancer includes external-beam radiation therapy or radical prostatectomy.

WHITE – Lung Cancer

Lung cancer which begins in the lungs claims more lives each year than colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined. People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer, though lung cancer can also occur in people who have never smoked. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and the number of cigarettes you’ve smoked. Treatment options for lung cancer are surgery where the infected tissue is removed or a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapy.

GREY – Brain Cancer

Brain tumors include types of brain cancer, however not all brain tumors are cancerous.

All types of brain tumors may produce symptoms that will differ depending on the part of the brain. The usual symptoms are headaches, seizures, weak vision, vomiting, and mental changes. The most widely used treatments for brain cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

BLACK – Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or artificial tanning) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Skin cancer is treated through immunotherapy drugs such as interferon (by injection) and imiquimod therapy (a cream applied to the skin)

BURGUNDY AND IVORY – Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer is a group of cancers that start in the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, sinuses, or salivary glands. Symptoms for head and neck cancer may include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, trouble swallowing, or a change in the voice. Surgery is often the first option for head and neck cancer, but it may be combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

GOLD – All Childhood Cancer

All childhood cancer is a term used to describe cancers that occur in children from birth to 15 years of age, it is represented by a golden awareness ribbon. The 3 most common types of cancer found in children are acute lymphoblastic leukemia – ALL (bone marrow), brain cancer and spinal cancer. Cancer in children is uncommon because of which devising a treatment plan for them can be difficult. Children suffering from ALL receive chemotherapy, radiation therapy or stem cell transplant. For brain and spinal cancer, a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy is provided.

Next time if you see a colorful cancer awareness ribbon, you don’t have to be clueless as to what the ribbon means because they all stand for a symbol for a type of cancer.


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