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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Learn how to make a Change

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. As a daughter of a breast cancer survivor, this month always hits home for me. This month celebrates survivors, but it also brings attention to ways we can prevent and learn more about this disease. 

First, it is important to learn more about the biology behind breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer can be either lifestyle-related or genetic. When it is lifestyle-related, it comes from various environmental pollutants, medication intake and obesity. For genetic breast cancer, it is passed down from generation to generation. 

Some common symptoms of breast cancer are a lump in the breast, changes in your nipple shape and size changes in your breast. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor. Most likely they will refer you to get a mammogram. 

Some preventive measures that you can take are staying up to date with annual physicals, getting regular check-ups from your doctor and attending your annual gynecological visits. Not only do these appointments help you develop a rapport with your doctors, it helps you stay on top of your health and learn how to take steps to improve your health every day. 

The most common treatments for breast cancer are chemotherapy and radiation. Chemotherapy can be extremely draining, as most patients lose their hair and become very ill from the medication. Radiation makes you extremely sensitive to the sun. Both treatments are just a small price to pay for your health. 

During an individual’s cancer journey, they may get BRCA testing. BRCA testing looks at genes to determine if there is a mutation that makes someone more susceptible to either breast cancer or ovarian cancer. This is a huge development in science, as it protects the next generation of women and gives patients peace of mind knowing where their sickness could have come from. 

As I mentioned earlier, my mother battled breast cancer. She found her lump and immediately knew that something was wrong. She was able to get the care she needed and is an amazing survivor. Additionally, she was able to get BRCA testing, to confirm her cancer was not genetic. This was a relief to my sister and me, knowing that we were unlikely to be genetically predisposed. My mom was so happy too, as she was so worried about passing it down. 

Her battle put a lot of things in perspective for me. It made our family stronger and more aware of the beauty in everyday life.  Since her time in remission, she has been able to be an amazing advocate for other women who get breast cancer in our community. It has been inspiring to see her share her strength and be an amazing resource. I love my mom, and I am so proud of her every day. 

So many women battle breast cancer every year, so it is critical to bring light to these issues. That is why Breast Cancer Awareness month was established. During this month, try to donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, so more evidence can be discovered that hopefully leads to the cure.

Be aware that breast cancer, as well as most other illnesses, can also be dependent on privilege. Medications can be extremely costly, and there is a very big class divide in the urgency you can get care. Additionally, uninsured patients are most likely not going to realize they have it until it is too late. This is due to not having reliable access to a doctor. 

Overall, continue to be the best person you can be by being aware of your health. Hopefully, one day we can put an end to breast cancer.

Health Policy and Administration student at Pennsylvania State University.
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