Breast Cancer Awareness & Prevention:
What YOU Should Know & What YOU Should DO.
I’ve talked about breast cancer awareness many times in the past since I was personally affected and lost a loved one in June 2011. My grandmother was 89-years-old and would have turned the big 9-0 in October (2011), but we lost her after a long and stressful battle to breast cancer. I’ve watched many of my friends, family members, and neighbors suffer or watch their loved ones pass because of this horrible disease. Will there ever come a time when we can call breast cancer curable? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel where we all rejoice because the fight is over? I don’t know, but I will continue to help spread awareness and pray for a cure.
Past MamaNYC posts have discussed my grandmothers breast cancer story and how difficult it was to watch her fight. I don’t think I would be able to fight breast cancer as headstrong as my grandmother was able to do with such determination — and grace. I am also participating on Sunday, October 21st with the American Cancer Society Making Strides walk in an effort to raise awareness. Today I want to discuss the statistics, what you should know about breast cancer, and everything that you need to do in an effort to detect and treat as soon as possible.
I discovered just how important early detection can be when I lost my grandmother in June 2011. My grandmother didn’t want to bother anyone with her problems, so she waited too long to tell us about the lump that she had discovered in her breast. Discovery was made around July 2009, but my grandmother held her tongue until November 2009.
Breast cancer lumps aren’t supposed to hurt early on, which means detection and treatment can prevent most pain. If it progresses, cancer can become a very painful disease. If you wait for a lump to actually cause pain and hurt, you might not catch it in time to do anything. It might be too late. My grandmother was unable to lift her arms by the time she notified my aunt and told her she had to see a doctor.
A breast self-examination (BSE) is vital in order to detect lumps, breast problems, or any changes as soon as they happen. A majority of breast problems are actually discovered by women themselves during BSE’s or accidentally as opposed to a mammogram or an exam conducted by a medical professional. Breast lumps can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). There isn’t any safe age or stage of life where you would be able to skip on monthly self exams. Breast cancer can develop at any age, but it is most common in women over 50.
Performing a self examination is very easy and will take less than 60-seconds every month. Pick a specific day to perform your monthly examinations so that you never forget! The best time to examine your breasts is usually one week after your menstrual period begins. Your breast tissue is least likely to be swollen or tender during this time, which will therefore present the greatest time of the monthly to feel any irregularities. Check your breasts through a self examination for lumps or changes while standing or lying down while looking at your breasts in a mirror to note any changes in their appearance.
If you choose to do breast self-examinations, this should not replace regular clinical breast examinations (CBE) by a doctor and mammograms. Breast implants do not decrease a woman’s risk for breast cancer, so women with breast implants need to talk with their doctors about performing breast self-examinations.
According to the American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer, yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health. Clinical breast exam (CBE) should be done every 3 years for women in their 20′s and 30′s; women 40 and over should schedule a CBE annually. All women 20 and older should perform a monthly breast self exam due to the vitalness of early detection in breast cancer cases.
I know that many women are terrified to find out, or the idea of a mammogram testing itself may seem overwhelming and scary. Unfortunately, mammograms are a part of adulthood that we need to suck it up and schedule each year. It isn’t as scary as you may think.. plus it just might save your life.
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. A diagnostic mammogram is used to diagnose breast disease in women who have breast symptoms or an abnormal result on a screening mammogram. Screening mammograms are used to look for breast disease in women who are asymptomatic; that is, those who appear to have no breast problems. Screening mammograms usually take 2 views (x-ray pictures taken from different angles) of each breast , while diagnostic mammograms may take more views of the breast. Women who are breastfeeding can still get mammograms, although these are probably not quite as accurate because the breast tissue tends to be dense. - [credit: American Cancer Society - Breast Cancer Early Detection Mammograms]
The entire procedure will take approximately 20 minutes, which isn’t long at all considering your life could be saved from its results. During a mammogram, you will have a breast compression, which will only lasts a few seconds. There may be some discomfort since your breasts are being compressed. It is recommended to avoid scheduling your mammogram during a time when your breasts are tender, such as before or during your period.
Mammography Machine: SIze and appearance will vary since there are many different models, but you will stand facing the machine and the table is where your breasts will be placed throughout the examination.
Approximately 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are considered to be hereditary as inherited from a parent and resulting directly from gene defects (called mutations). The risk for breast cancer is higher among women with a family history of blood relatives having the disease. A first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer will double a woman’s risk of diagnosis. Having two first-degree relatives increases your risk threefold.
Although the level of risk is unknown, women with a family history of breast cancer in a father or brother also have an increased risk of breast cancer. Less than 15% of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease, which means that over 85% of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.
You should always investigate and obtain knowledge regarding your family medical history. Speak with your grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. Write everything down and create a register on your computer so that you can pass it on to your other close relatives and thereafter pass on to younger generations. Knowing the medical history of your family tree is important well beyond breast cancer, so this is a vital tip that you should raise attention to as soon as possible.
There is a new breast cancer diagnosis made every 2 minutes.
A life is lost to breast cancer every 14 minutes.
Over 40,000 people will die this year from breast cancer.
Approximately 400 victims of breast cancer will be men.
2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2011 were men.
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed and develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between ages 40 and 55.
85% of all diagnoses will have no family history of breast cancer.
There were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States in 2011.
Help support breast cancer through my Making Strides Against Breast Cancer donation page. Let’s raise awareness, fight for a cure, and support the fighters and survivors together!
* Search for an American Cancer Society Making Strides walk in your city.
National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.: Breast Cancer Symptoms and Signs
BreastCancer.org: Stages of Breast Cancer
American Cancer Society: Treatment of Invasive Breast Cancer by Stage