By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Cancer is not prejudice and unfortunately affects men and women of all walks of life. October has been declared Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, is the second leading cause of death among women. All people, male or female, are born with some form of breast tissue, therefore does not eliminate males from developing breast cancer, though highly rare with only around two thousand diagnosed each year.
Though difficult to pinpoint the cause for any disease, there are practices that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Some of these risk factors include drinking alcohol, smoking, lack of physical activity, hormone replacement therapy, poor diet, and radiation to the chest. However, with one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many more risk factors that you cannot control, such as genetics, age, race, early menstruation, late menopause, and dense breast tissue.
Given that breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in women, it’s no surprise to hear that each year over 250,000 women are diagnosed, and of those over 40,000 will die from this disease. On average, every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and one woman will die from it every thirteen minutes. Fortunately, over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors reside in the United States today.
So what do we need to know to reduce our risks of becoming a statistic? While breast cancer can’t always be prevented, early detection is the key to fighting a successful battle. During October, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. is providing free early detection guides on their website. There are some early warning signs and symptoms to be aware of. These early warning signs do not mean you have cancer, but it should alert you to seek medical attention. These symptoms are: a change in how the breast looks or feels, and any discharge that may occur, especially clear or bloody.
It is recommended that women perform a self exam at least once per month. John Hopkins Medical Center states, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular self breast exam is very important”. To properly execute a self exam, while in the shower use your fingers to make circular motions starting from the outside of the breast moving inward, including the armpit area feeling for any knot or hardening. While in front of a mirror, visually inspect your breast with your arms by your side, overhead, and with your hands pressed firmly on your hips to flex the chest muscles. Make note of any changes in the contour, dimpling, swelling, or changes particularly to one side. And lastly, while laying down, place one arm behind your head and using the opposite hand, again work your fingers around in a circular motion from the outer portion of the breast moving inward, including the armpit area using light, medium, and firm pressure. Make sure to also include the areola and nipple to check for changes and discharge. Regular mammograms are also recommended to aid in early detection of breast cancer.
Chances are, we all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer in one way or another. Living a healthy lifestyle will help reduce the risk, however there’s not a lot anyone can do to completely prevent it. There are many ways to help support those affected by all types of cancer. If you are looking for a way to help, please take the time to visit websites pertinent to your desires and find out how you can help.