By Savanah Shelley
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month so let’s become aware of the seriousness of breast cancer. One eighth of women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Each year it is estimated that over 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,500 will die. Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 460 will die each year. It is very important to know your body and do self exams so if you notice any unusual changes, you can report them to your doctor.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation states 3 different ways you can squeeze in a self exam into your day:
In the Shower- With the pads of your fingers move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. If you notice any changes, report them to your doctor.
In Front of a Mirror- Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides and raise your arms over your head. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
Lying Down- Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head while laying down. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple and check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
A mammogram can detect tumors before they can be felt, so screening is key for early detection. However, breast self exams are essential because they can help women know what is normal for them so they can report anything unusual to their doctor. Over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today so if you notice any symptoms or early signs, go to your doctor immediately so you can come out as one of the brave survivors.