According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer has become the second leading cancer to cause death in women.
Nearly 1 in 8 women will develop an invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.
This type of cancer has a great 5 year survival rate but progresses extremely quickly. This makes early detection a detrimental tool in the fight against breast cancer. Finding this cancer early on and getting state-of-the-art cancer treatment as soon as possible, are the most important strategies to prevent deaths.
Now more than ever, it is clear that this is something women need to be aware of and educated on from an early stage.
How Can You Be Prepared?
The first step of early detection is being aware of the warning signs. Most often, when breast cancer is first detected, it is because of symptoms the woman discovers herself.
To be able to detect these signs, women need to be aware of what their breasts should normally look and feel like. Having a basis for what is normal for your body and what is out of the ordinary is extremely important.
One of the most important tips to be able to accomplish this is to check your breasts the same time each month, especially in the few days following your period. At this time of the month, your hormones have leveled out and your breasts are at the most normal state – the perfect time for a breast exam!
Lastly, and arguably the most important thing to remember is that, a lump is not the only sign of breast cancer. Contact your doctor if you notice any unusual swelling, dimpling, redness, scaliness, or a lump in the armpit area.
While completing self-checks is an important and necessary first step in fighting breast cancer, it is not the most effective. Getting regular screening tests is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early. The American Cancer Society has screening guidelines for women which outline how you should be checked at each age.
Women should be getting mammograms either yearly or every other year for about 15 years after they reach 40 years old. Women should also speak with their doctor for more specific advice on what would be the best plan for their own circumstances. If you are not in those higher risk years, your detection needs will vary. However, your doctor very well could believe that you need more frequent checks. Be as communicative as possible, it is so important!
Technologies Making Early Detection Possible
With the world becoming more technologically advanced, it makes sense to use this to our advantage. Many organizations see this need for early detection among young woman, and are tailoring ways to make it as easy as possible. Here are some breast cancer health tech advancements to look into…
A Phone Application
Keep A Breast foundation has created a Check Yourself! App strictly to keep you on schedule with your monthly self examinations. The app comes with instructions on how to go through each step of the process. There is also an option to set a monthly notification to remind you that you need to to Check Yourself! There are plenty of other tools to use throughout the app, including important information on breast health.
EVA is a non-invasive, wearable technology that detects abnormalities in the thermal patterns of the breast. The findings can potentially indicate early signs of breast cancer. All you need to do is simply wear the EVA and open up the app! The results will come through, and if something was detected that is abnormal, they will provide you with a plan of action. This certainly can not replace the accuracy of a mammogram but it is a reliable way to keep track of your personal breast health.
With this BRCA genetic test, you have the advantage of staying right in your own home from beginning to end. All you have to do is buy the test online, provide a saliva sample, and mail it back! You are then able to review your results online and speak with a board-certified genetic counselor to take a further look into your results. As a bonus, you now have access to these results to potentially give to future a health care provider, so they are better able to position your prevention or treatment plan.
Preventive Measures You Can Take
The Mayo Clinic touches on measures you can take to try and prevent contracting breast cancer. A lot of these lifestyle changes are things we should be making a habit anyway! For example, limiting your alcohol consumption, controlling your weight, and not smoking are things you could work towards.
However, the tips more specific to breast cancer would be breastfeeding for as long as possible after having a child, avoiding your exposure to radiation and environmental pollution, and trying to limit your hormonal intake and therapy. None of these actions will completely eliminate your risk, however, it will definitely reduce
your chances. Speak to your doctor on what they believe would be best for your body type.
What Can You Do to Help the Cause?
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, there are many different ways to give back to a community that is in need of as many volunteers as possible. You can show your support by investing in companies that support the research for the cure, local charity events, or by simply educating others about the cause.
The donations and volunteer services over the years have made an enormous impact, and we are only getting closer and closer to discovering the cure. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer has raised more than $750 million since their start in 1993. That number is a massive contribution to the funds to support the materials and personnel throughout all aspects of cancer research.
Here are some places you could invest your time and money to support breast cancer awareness…
True & Co.
True&Co. is a company who feels very passionate about this cause. The have created a long-time partnership with Keep A Breast foundation. They offer a collection of pink lingerie and donate 25% of the proceeds directly back to the organization. Another cool aspect to the True & Co. company is that they make soft and enjoyable bras that mastectomy patients are in need of. A 20+ year survivor has even stated that their bras changed her life, post surgery.
Race for the Cure
Race for the Cure has become a staple in the breast cancer volunteer space. They have events spanning the United States and even making a massive global movement this year in nine different countries. With a series of 5k races, they extend their warm welcome to anybody and everybody. With everyone having the same goal in mind, the sense of community you feel is reason enough to attend!
Educational Displays in Local Buildings
Investing your time is both extremely important and up-lifting. Reach out to your local library or grocery store and set up an information desk to educate your community.
A lot of the information can be found on the internet however, not everybody has access to that. Sharing facts through word of mouth is so important. For instance, did you know that men can be diagnosed with breast cancer, too? And not all lumps are cancerous. The older you get, you are more at risk, so the more you know – the better!
As much detection, education, and prevention you go through each month and year, nothing feels worse than hearing news of a loved one’s breast cancer diagnosis. The most important thing to remember is to never give up. It may be a tough road ahead, but with a community like this, you are certainly not alone.
Please comment below to share any inspiring quotes you believe will help and encourage awareness this month.