As we approach the end of October, we approach the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We observe this month annually to recognize the impact breast cancer has in women (and men!). We celebrate breast cancer survivors and raise funds to support research in this type of cancer.
Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer, behind skin cancer. Studies show 1 in 8 women in the U.S. are bound to develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Minority women are most affected with Black women having the highest mortality rate in the U.S. The risk of illness increases with age- women between the ages of 50-70 years old are most at risk. However, it is still crucial to check for detection at any age.
Doctors recommend women to schedule at least one mammography exam every year. This is an x-ray exam of the breasts that can detect any abnormal growths before lumps appear. As you become older, it is important to increase the number of mammography exams you receive each year. Mammography exams are especially important since there are typically no symptoms in the early stages of breast cancer. If you are not regularly self-examining your breasts, growths can spread rapidly.
Self-exams are often overlooked and are not given enough importance. It is a quick and easy procedure to make sure your breasts are healthy. You can complete them laying down, in the mirror, or even in the shower. Carefully use three fingers and apply pressure around the breast checking for any lumps while paying close attention near the nipple area. Always check for any changes to your breasts such as nipple discharge, dimpling, or swelling. It is also important to check for lumps near the armpit area as well. Lumps in the breasts do not always equal breast cancer. However, any lump in the breast should never be ignored and it is important to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
Take charge of your health by making sure your breasts are healthy. Planned Parenthood offers free to low-cost breast and mammography exams for anyone, and they also help find low-cost services with doctors if needed. Make sure you regularly complete self-exams, annually get your breasts checked by your healthcare provider, and schedule those mammography appointments. Encourage the women (and men) around you to do the same. For more information and ways to get involved in breast cancer awareness, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.