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Good morning friends, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is drawing to a close but I just want to remind you that it is important to remain vigilant all year long. Self-breast exams, visits with your doctor and annual screenings can help detect breast cancer early and increase survival rates.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
What is is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? It is an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer on women and men. The goal is to get as many people as possible involved in raising awareness and funds. Thankfully many corporations, including the NFL support this worthy cause.
Who Started Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries. Betty Ford helped kick off the week-long event, as she was herself a survivor of breast cancer. She was diagnosed when her husband, Gerald Ford, was president of the United States and brought even more attention to breast cancer.
My Family History of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer month is a cause that is very close to my heart. If you have read my blog for any length of time than you may have seen mention that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 36 years old. I can still remember the day she went in for her mastectomy, I was 14 years old. Thankfully she is alive and well and turned 77 this year, she was able to see her children married and have their own children.
My cousin was diagnosed at the age of 35, while pregnant with her third son, she delayed treatment until after she gave birth so the baby was not affected. Sadly the treatment was not successful and she passed away just after her 39th birthday. Her mother was diagnosed several years later and had a double mastectomy. In addition several of my grandmothers sisters passed from the same disease. Needless to say it is a disease that has affected my family for many generations.
As for me, I have been getting yearly monograms since I was 18 years old and my gynecologist fought my insurance company so that I was able to get the BRACA gene test after I was denied the test several times.
Breast Cancer Facts
According to The American Cancer Society:
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. The average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. This also means there is a 7 in 8 chance she will never have the disease.
- About 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
- About 49,290 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) will be diagnosed.
- About 43,600 women and 500 men will die from breast cancer in 2021.
Why is it Important to do a Monthly Self Exam for Cancer?
Breast cancer can’t be prevented but with regular self exams and recommended screenings it is easier to treat and more likely to be cured. If you feel or see a change in your breasts call your doctor immediately to set up an appointment for an exam.
Self-exams are important but they should not replace mammograms or other exams recommended by your doctors. Make sure to schedule regular appointments with your primary care provider or gynecologist.
What are the Steps of a Monthly Self- Exam?
According to The Cleveland Clinic a monthly breast exam includes three things:
- A Visual exam: “With your shirt and bra removed, stand in front of a mirror. Put your arms down by your sides. Look for any changes in breast shape, breast swelling, dimpling in the skin or changes in the nipples. Next, raise your arms high overhead and look for the same things. Finally, put your hands on your hips and press firmly to make your chest muscles flex. Look for the same changes again. Be sure to look at both breasts.”
- Manual Inspection Standing: “With your shirt and bra removed, use your right hand to examine your left breast, then vice versa. With the pads of your three middle fingers, press on every part of one breast. Use light pressure, then medium, then firm. Feel for any lumps, thick spots or other changes. A circular pattern may help you make sure you hit every spot. Then, press the tissue under the arm. Be sure to check under the areola and then squeeze the nipple gently to check for discharge. Repeat the steps on the other side of your body.”
- Manual Inspection Lying Down: “When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads more evenly,. So this is a good position to feel for changes, especially if your breasts are large. Lie down and put a pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, apply the same technique as step 2, using the pads of your fingers to press all parts of the breast tissue and under your arm. Finally, swap the pillow to the other side, and check the other breast and armpit. Be sure to check under the areola and then squeeze the nipple gently to check for discharge.” Source: The Cleveland Clinic.
How Often and When Should You Get Mammograms?
Breast cancer screening guidelines changed several years ago and not everyone agrees on the age to start them but all organizations recommend that you discuss your history, your family history, and your individual risk and options with your doctor.
Many doctors offer mammograms begining at the age of 40(unless you have a family history). Yes, I will be honest they are a little uncomfortable (not painful) but isn’t a few minutes of discomfort worth a little peace of mind?
I urge you to get yearly mammograms and to encourage your sisters, mothers, friends and any other women you know to do the same.
Where Can I Get More Information About Breast Cancer?
If you would like more information please visit The Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation to learn about the current research and trials being done, to give a donation of to learn more about prevention. You can also visit BreastCancer.org, and The American Cancer Society for new studies and information on all cancers.
We are our own best doctors and advocates take care of yourself and please do your exams, now that the world is opening back up schedule your doctors appointments.
Have a great day friends.