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#WomensHealthAwareness: Life is Bumpy Enough: Don’t Be Blindsided by Breast Lumps

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, it’s impossible not to think about the incredibly strong women we know who have been affected by breast cancer.  But what about you?  What about us?  It’s scary knowing that breast cancer plays no favorites, and despite age, race or GPA, we are at risk simply by being women.  

Being proactive about your breast health can help take some of that anxiety away. By doing a home breast exam once a month, you can catch lumps early. Finding a lump is a daunting experience, but according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc., “8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.” You may find abnormalities like sebaceous cysts, benign tumors or fibrous breast tissue, which can be dealt with by your breast care specialist.

So, how do you do a home breast exam?

1. While holding one arm above your head, use your other hand to walk your fingertips around your breast and armpit in an “itsy bitsy spider” motion. It’s easiest to do this in the shower. It may be awkward at first, but the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to recognize what your breast tissue feels like normally. This is important so that you can easily identify when there is a lump.

2. Know what your breasts look like. I know this one sounds funny, but sometimes lumps visually present themselves. Using a mirror, know what your breasts look like with your arms at your sides, with your arms raised above your hips and with your hands on your hips.

3. When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads out evenly. This is a great opportunity to check for lumps from a different angle. Put your arm behind your head as you did in the shower, and do the same “itsy bitsy spider” motion, but don’t forget your nipples! Your mammary glands can hide lumps easily. Pay attention for any nipple discharge. I know it sounds gross, but clear or bloody liquid can be a telltale sign of lumps, even if you can’t see or feel them.

The most important thing is to know your breasts. Don’t put it off because you’re afraid of what you might find. I’ve been through a lot this year with my breasts, but I can honestly say that I’m so grateful that I knew my breasts well enough to know something was wrong. I’m still healing, but I don’t have a thundercloud of worry hovering over my head. Every doctor and nurse I’ve encountered has been so proud of me for finding the lumps myself.

I still give myself home exams, and if I can, then you can too. I believe in you.

We’re women. We’re strong. We fight. We survive.

Jamison McLean

Chapel Hill '20

Jamison is currently a Junior at UNC Chapel Hill, studying both English/Comparative Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing and Communications with a concentration in Media & Technology Studies and Production. She is also an award-winning poet and short story novelist for her works "This" and "The Ladies of Catville," which were featured in "Writer's Digest" magazine. Apart from writing, her current (and maybe forever) obsessions are Bill Murray, boba, the color pink, "The Great British Baking Show," & Oxford commas.
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