By Marianna Boyce
Breast Cancer Awareness is highlighted in October to bring attention to one of the most diagnosed cancers in women. One of every eight women is diagnosed in the United States alone. Chances are, it’s likely you know someone who has fought or is currently fighting this vicious disease. Men can also develop breast cancer, but their odds are much lower. If you or a loved one have been affected, I’m sure your awareness extends well beyond the devoted month of October every year.
The exact cause of breast cancer isn’t known, but one thing is clear: this global issue is non-discriminatory.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, approximately 41,760 women, and 500 men will die each year in the United States alone; however, this same website reports that death rates have also steadily declined since 1990. Contributing factors to this trend are increased awareness, early detection, better screening, and improving treatment options.
We should be aware of risk factors, along with small steps we can take in order to fight against breast cancer. Some risk factors can be avoided, such as alcohol intake, but other factors like family history cannot be. A monthly self-exam is a step in the right direction to detect issues early.
According to the American Cancer Society, current guidelines for breast cancer screening is as follows:
- Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
- Women ages 45-54 should have a mammogram yearly.
- Women 55 and older should have a mammogram every two years, or continue yearly screening if they wish.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live ten years or longer.
Every woman is unique. You should know how your breasts normally look and feel. Remember that your monthly self-exam is the most powerful tool in early detection. If you feel a lump, or something that doesn’t feel normal, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.
Visit www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam to learn the proper way a self-exam should be performed.
Life is busy—I get it, but something as simple as a buddy system to help remind one another to self-examine each month could potentially save a friend, loved one, or even your own life. Set a recurring reminder on your phone for a time you can take a moment and devote it to your health.
When’s the last time you did your breast exam? Don’t wait ladies. Do it today.