October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We are all aware of what breast cancer is and the devastating effect it can have on everyone involved. But what we really need to be more aware of is our own breast health and our own bodies.
Full transparency: Getting cancer is a huge fear of mine. I’m not afraid for my health in any other capacity – I find hand sanitizer a joke, I’ll eat after people I’m not even Facebook friends with and my 5 second rule is a good 5 days- but I am petrified I’m going to get some sort of cancer. Maybe because it strikes all types of people. Obesity related diseases I can control, lifestyle related diseases are easily avoided, but cancer can strike anyone, anytime. Add to that the fact that I don’t have health insurance (thank you, freelance work and finding a personal need to have a career I enjoy) and it’s pretty much on me to do everything I can to prevent that C-word: Healthy diet, regular exercise and regular self exams.
Know the facts: About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
Prevention is key. Do a self breast exam once a month.
Do you even know how? Not many women do.
First: Stand with your shoulders straight, hands on your hips. Look in the mirror for:
- A nipple that has changed position
- An inverted nipple
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
Then, raise your arms. If you notice any of these, with your hands on your hips or arms raised, contact your doctor immediately.
From there is Phase 2: Getting touchy feely
Gently squeeze each nipple to check for any ooky discharge, like a milky or yellowish fluid or blood. Tell your doctor if you see any of this.
Next, lie down. Use a firm, smooth touch with your first three fingers, keeping them flat and pressed together and feel the breast for any new lumps. Cover the entire breast from top to bottom and side to side, all the way from your collarbone to the top of your tummy, and from your armpit to your sternum.
You can do this check standing as well by raising the arm of the breast you are examining overhead. Many women find it easier to examine in the shower, when you are wet and more slippery.
Doing a monthly check will ensure you get to know your breasts so you can recognize any changes that may need to be checked out. You can even ask your partner to do it for you. I’m not kidding. Other than you, they know your body best (hopefully) and you better believe they won’t let you forget to do it regularly.
Catching it early can save your life. Get your grope on.