Breast Cancer Awareness: How To Stay Informed

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In celebration of this month, it is important to become informed about the threat that breast cancer poses to people of all genders. The earlier you catch breast cancer, the easier it is to treat, so the best way to stay ahead is to be screened regularly. Above all, being informed about this topic is an important step in prevention for not only you, but for the people you spread the word to.

Am I at risk?

About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, and you are more likely to get breast cancer as you get older in age, ages 65 to 85 being the most affected. However, breast cancer does not just affect women. Breast cancer can be caused by an inherited genetic mutation, and having a family history of it puts you at a greater risk, no matter your gender. High breast tissue density, having started menstrual cycles or menopause early, and high endogenous (internal) hormone levels also put you at a greater risk. Again, because this can affect a large majority of people, it is extremely important to spread awareness and get screened.

How can I identify it?

The first recognizable symptom is a small, painless lump. Other symptoms include bloody discharge from the nipple, and change in the shape or texture of the nipple or breast. The easiest way to identify if you should talk to your doctor about a concern is to do a self-exam.

How do I perform a self-exam?

You can perform a breast self-exam in three different places in the home. It is recommended that all people that are at risk perform a self exam once a month. Here’s a quick guide on how to perform them.

1. In the shower

Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern, moving from the outside to the center. Check the entire breast and armpit area on both sides. Feel for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. If you notice any changes, talk to your healthcare provider.

2. In front of the mirror

Look at your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms above your head and look for any changes in shape, including swelling or dimpling of the skin, and changes in the nipples. Then, put your hands on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Look for the same things here. Especially look for changes that only occur on one side of the body. Remember that your left and right breasts will most likely not match exactly.

3. While lying down

Put a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. Use your left hand to examine the breast and armpit area in the same way that you checked while in the shower, changing the pressure you apply to the breast. Squeeze the nipple and check for discharge. When finished, repeat with the left breast.

Whether you’ve never done a self-exam before, or you’re a seasoned pro, it’s important that this month, and every month, you take the time to remember that preventative care is a huge step in staying healthy and happy. Be sure to spread the word this month, and help save not just the ta-ta, but the person that is attached.