You may have noticed your world has recently become significantly pinker. Stores are carrying more pink merchandise, your friends are adorned with pink ribbons, and even NFL players are flaunting pink attire. This pink phenomenon is not in your head. The sudden onset is an effort to support an important cause – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease where malignant (cancerous) cells form in the breast. Although these cancerous cells start by growing and invading healthy cells in the breast, they can eventually make their way to other areas of the body by entering blood vessels or lymph vessels. When this happens, and the cancer cells begin damaging other tissues the process is then called metastasis.
The Importance of Raising Awareness
One of the biggest reasons raising awareness about breast cancer is important, is that the disease affects too many women. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and it is second leading cause of death among women. More shocking, a woman in the U.S. is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes.
Most of us have at least eight women in our lives we care about. These women could be anyone from your mother, to your sister, wife, or friends. What if we told you one of them is going to be diagnosed with breast cancer? While that may be difficult to believe, statistics suggest that one of them WILL be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life. And as the age of these women goes up, so does the likelihood they will develop breast cancer.
These statistics are not meant to scare you. They are provided to help you understand the reality that breast cancer affects more than just the women who are diagnosed.
Early Detection and Symptoms
The good news is treatment is possible especially when done early. Here are two ways you can be proactive about your breast health.
The most common way to detect breast cancer is through a mammogram, which is basically an x-ray of the breast. Doctors recommend women should start getting mammograms when they turn 40 years old. Women between the ages of 45-55 should receive them annually. After they reach 55, women have the option to reduce the frequency of their mammograms to every other year (depending on their family history).
Senior Care Providers
Most senior care providers, such as home health providers, assisted living communities, and memory care communities can provide free exams.
Even though a mammogram often can detect tumors or cancerous cells before they become physically observable, many doctors still encourage women to perform self-examinations. A self-examination can be performed by doing the following:
- Using a mirror, let your arms hang by your waist. Look for signs of bulges within the skin, the nipple either inverting or extruding abnormally, and redness or rash agitating the area.
- Raise your hands above your head and look for the same signs.
- Observe in these two tests whether any fluid is excreting from your breasts.
- While laying down, either extend outward from your nipples in a circular motion, or go from top to bottom linearly, and try to feel all the tissues of your breast. Be on the look-out for any abnormalities.
- You can perform this test while sitting down or standing up.
It is important to realize not all breast lumps are cancerous. Some are ‘benign’ and it is unlikely they will spread to other tissue. Despite this, they can still serve as a warning sign for an increased risk of breast cancer. Regardless, they should be examined by a specialist.
Winning Breast Cancer
October was deemed National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with the intention of not only educating people about the disease’s prevalence but also to recognize those who have been/are affected and to acknowledge the progress that has been made in efforts of making breast cancer a thing of the past.
In 2017, over 250,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Of those who have been diagnosed, breast cancer wins nearly 17% of the time. Despite those numbers, it is important to acknowledge the 83% of women that DO WIN. We like to call them survivors. Today, there are over three million breast cancer survivors in the United States. By raising awareness, we can help create a world full of survivors by ensuring women win every time.
“National Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” by Nick Schaller, Senior Directory, LLC.