The warm water from my shower cascaded down my body like soft rain on a summer day. The scent of my Philosophy almond and cream body wash permeated my thoughts as I leisurely cupped my breasts and felt their weight, size, texture, and shape. Then, I did what I have done since I was a young woman. I gave my melons a good squeeze and completed my breast exam. For over two decades, the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) has dedicated the month of October to Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA). During the month extra emphasis is given to the disease of breast cancer through walks, runs, and special events. Most significant are the presence of the pink ribbons that are proudly worn and displayed by breast cancer survivors and those who support them.
Changes in the World of Breast Cancer Awareness
While researching for this article, I was surprised to find that the practice of monthly breast self-exams (BSE) are no longer being recommended by the American Cancer Society (ACS). On the ACS website, it states, “Research does not show a clear benefit of physical breast exams done by either a health professional or by yourself for breast cancer screening. Due to this lack of evidence, regular clinical breast exam, and breast self-exam are not recommended. Still, all women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a healthcare provider right away.” The ACS is not alone in this finding. In contrast to that, online sites directed specifically towards women, such as National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), and brightpink.org, among others, are still encouraging women to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. The call to action words that the NBCAM and other breast cancer foundations are echoing is “breast cancer awareness.” For women to be aware and an advocate for themselves, women are being placed in a position to empower themselves with breast cancer prevention knowledge. Important factors are family history, lifestyle choices, and being cognitive of the health of your breasts.
Healthy Breast Care
Each day we touch and view our breasts at least twice daily, while bathing and putting on and taking off a bra. They are yours, feel them and make sure they are healthy. Every woman becomes acquainted with her breasts and familiar with their size, shape, weight, and texture. It is this personal connection with your breasts that will make you aware when something is not right. In an article “5 Rarely Discussed Early Breast Cancer Warning Signs” by Ty Bollinger on thetruthaboutcancer.com, Bollinger writes “Experts from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston warn that breast cancer often shows up without the classic lump, showing symptoms such as swelling and irritation, dimpling, nipple discharge beyond normal lactation, nipple inversion, and/or a thickening and reddening of skin around the nipple.” As a personal choice, I will continue to do exams on myself on a regular basis. The five minutes it takes is well worth my peace of mind, in addition to my constant observation of any breast changes. My doctor has always told me, when in doubt, call. Women’s instinct about their bodies is a powerful indicator. If you have a change to your breasts or are in doubt, get checked.
I added a link if you need a refresher on how to do a correct breast exam: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam
What I Do Know Is This
I have know three women in my life that have battled breast cancer. All three are warriors. Two are still alive. As Bette Davis would say “Getting old ain’t no place for sissies.” Well, breast cancer ain’t a disease for sissies.
Give your breasts a good squeeze; your life may depend on it.