PHOTO: Photo Courtesy of flickr.com/Yongjiet
As many of us at The Forum know all too well, breast cancer is a terrible disease that takes the lives of thousands of people every single day. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2015, there will be an estimated 1,658,370 new cancer cases diagnosed and 589,430 cancer deaths in the United States. These shocking figures, for those who haven’t been affected in some way by the disease, certainly emphasize the importance of becoming more aware of its deadliness and ubiquitousness.
Even if you get regular checkups or mammograms, it doesn’t hurt to refamiliarize yourself with the symptoms and signs of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so now’s as good a time as any to do a self-exam (which should actually be done once a month) or see your doctor for one.
Some symptoms to look out for include:
- Changes in breast skin texture
- Nipple tenderness
- Lumps or thickening in the breast or underarm area
- Inexplicable changes in breast size or shape, particularly if on one side only
- Dimpling anywhere on the breast
- Inversion of nipples
- Nipple discharge, particularly if clear or bloody
Johns Hopkins Medical Center states that “forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” This is because, once you familiarize yourself with how your breasts look and feel, any changes will be more noticeable, and you’ll be able to quickly alert your doctor.
To perform a breast self-exam, three methods are suggested by the National Breast Cancer Foundation: 1) in the shower, using the pads of your finger to move around your breast in a circular pattern to detect any thickening or lumps; also check the armpits and other parts of the chest 2) in front of a mirror, visually inspect for any changes, altering the positions of your arms, and 3) lying down, allow the breast tissue to spread evenly and use a similar motion to the shower method, checking both sides. For more information, visit nationalbreastcancer.org. Your doctor can also provide you with a guide that can be hung in the shower as a daily reminder. Self-exams need only take a couple of minutes of your time.
After the age of 40, it is recommended that women get mammograms once a year. If your insurance doesn’t cover mammograms or if you don’t have insurance, several organizations offer free and low-cost mammograms, particularly during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Just a couple of weeks ago, the American-Italian Cancer Foundation sponsored a Mobile Mammography clinic in Woodhaven. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a program to provide screenings through Medicaid. Planned Parenthood and YWCA also have resources, as do local affiliates of cancer support organizations such as Susan G. Komen Foundation, American Cancer Society, and others. So don’t let money or time stand in the way of your health; don’t make excuses – get yourself checked.