Every October, a sea of pink surrounds us in the form of ribbons, hoodies emblazoned with inspirational quotes and even on the uniforms of professional athletes. Unless you’ve been personally affected by breast cancer, though, does the significance of this month really register? Are you using the opportunity to learn more and do more?
If the answer is no, you’re probably not alone. Good health is a luxury that many people take for granted so it’s not surprising that so many walk past the displays without even pausing — but we should. We all should.
Did you know that about 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime? This year alone, it’s estimated that 266,120 will be diagnosed along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Tragically, more than 40,000 will lose their battle in 2018.
It’s not just women, either. Approximately 2,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men this year, also — this is something we should all care about.
Know the Signs
The signs and symptoms associated with breast cancer can vary widely from person to person. For this reason, it’s important to make note of any changes and discuss them with a healthcare provider.
The American Cancer Society does list the following symptoms as the types of unusual changes that warrant a trip to the doctor:
- swelling of all or part of the breast
- skin irritation or dimpling
- breast pain
- nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
- redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- a nipple discharge other than breast milk
- a lump in the underarm area
If you notice something that doesn’t seem right, have it checked out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Your first line of defense is to perform a self-exam at least once a month. If you’ve ever questioned the importance of this ritual, consider the fact that “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”
Another proactive method of being screened is to have a mammogram, which can help detect breast cancer very early, before symptoms even appear. Finding the disease early can make it easier to treat.
Many women are also choosing to be tested for any of the gene mutations(BRCA 1, BRCA 2 and PALB2) that can increase the risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Of course, this can be a really scary process but knowledge is power. Knowing sooner can improve your odds of survival.
Share Survivors’ Stories
Whether it’s someone you know or something you’ve seen on social media, post some awe-inspiring stories of people who have battled, or are currently battling, breast cancer. These are real-life superheroes and many have such amazing wisdom to share. Listen, learn and be humbled — and then hit the share button!
Help Raise Awareness
There are so many ways that you can help during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Beyond wearing a ribbon, encourage your workplace or school to provide education throughout October. Volunteer to help spearhead these efforts and, if you can, lend a hand at one of the organizations devoted to breast cancer awareness in your community.
Host a fundraiser in your home, office or even online while reminding your friends, family and coworkers about the importance of ongoing research. If you’d rather give to preventative care, provide a mammogram to someone who could not otherwise afford to be screened.
Too often, we fail to notice or care about the big issues until it directly impacts our lives. This October, get actively involved with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Through your efforts, you could actually save a life — including your own.