The words “You have Breast Cancer” are not ones anyone wants to hear. Despite the parades of pink propaganda and “save the boobs” advertisements, it is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. (1) More than 1 in 10 women in North America will have to hear those words in their lifetime.(2)(3)
Thankfully, 90% of women who are diagnosed with Breast Cancer in the earliest stage beat the disease, so we know that early detection is key for survival. (4) Unfortunately, most women don’t know the signs to look out for, how to properly conduct a self-breast exam, or take the time to schedule regular screenings and check-ups. Furthermore, mammograms and other screening tools may not pick up on breast abnormalities.
The Shower Check Isn’t Enough
27-year old Hayley Browning knows all too well the importance of paying attention to your body and regularly examining your breasts. Hayley discovered a lump in her breast while in an unexpected position – lying down. She took to Instagram to share her findings.
“3 weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I could only feel the lump whilst lying down and it completely disappeared standing up. Most websites tell you to check for lumps in the shower but if I had followed this advice, the lump may have grown too large to be treatable. Not even the surgeon could feel my lump when I was standing up.” Hayley captioned her post.
Oncologist Dr. Bonnie Reichman talked to Today about the importance of knowing your body and regularly checking your breasts for changes.
“Women should do it [their breast self-exams] the same time of the month,” said Reichman.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
There are several signs and symptoms to watch out for, especially when conducting a self-exam. (5)
New lump or mass (these may or may not be painful, hard, irregular in shape, soft, or rounded)
Swelling in part or all of the breast
Skin irritation or dimpling
Breast or nipple pain
Changes in nipple shape, size, positioning, or nipple retraction (turning inward)
Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
Nipple discharge other than breast milk
There are many factors that increase your risk of developing Breast Cancer. It is important that every woman talks to her doctor and knows her personal risk factors and options for prevention. These factors may include (6):
Personal and Family history
BRCA Gene mutations
Dense breast tissue
Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestry
Rare genetic conditions
Exposure to ionizing radiation
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Obesity and inactivity
Smoking and second-hand smoke
How-To do a Self Breast Exam
Breast self-exams should be done once a month, at the same time each month, and in a variety of positions. Watch the video below for step-by-step instructions on how to properly perform a self-breast examination.
Early detection of breast cancer could save your life, or the life of a loved one. Join us in performing monthly self-exams, and be sure to schedule screenings regularly with your doctor. Share this article with your loved ones and stop cancer in its tracks!