Breast Cancer Awareness Month is held around the world with fundraising events, charity 5k races, and health seminars taking center stage, and while you’ll probably recognize the pink ribbon you see everywhere from NFL games to local hospitals, do you really know enough about what it stands for? The pink ribbon is a reminder to look for signs of breast cancer and to support those who are facing one of the hardest battles of their life. The goal of this month and all these campaigns is to answer the questions “What is breast cancer?” and “How can I spot it?” Through more education, research funding, and increased health care access, doctors and activists hope that the number of women and men with breast cancer will decrease every year.
Cancer occurs when normal body cells begin to multiply too quickly at an uncontrollable rate, and when this occurs in breast tissue, it’s referred to as breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 American women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, and for 1 in 39, this will be a fatal diagnosis that cuts their life too short. Global statistics aren’t much different, but some regions of the world, especially developing countries, have much higher death rates for the disease. There is no single cause for breast cancer, but it can be hereditary, and your chances of developing breast cancer increase with age. Knowing how to check for breast cancer is one of the few ways that women can increase their chances of survival because early detection is the key to starting treatment and saving lives.
The main signs of breast cancer are any changes in breast tissue, like hardening lumps, increased fibrosis, dimpling of the skin, or red or flaky nipples. The key to knowing what are the signs of breast cancer is becoming familiar with the normal texture and feel of your breasts through monthly self-exams. There are three main steps for how to check for breast cancer:
Begin by standing in front of the mirror and looking at the texture and color of your skin. Note any redness, dimpling, or dry skin.
Then, raise one hand up, and with the opposite hand, firmly press your fingertips around your armpit and breast, feeling for thickening fibers or lumps.
Lay down flat on your back, and press your finger pads into your skin, making sweeping motions out from your nipple all around each breast.
The main thing to think about as you figure out how to check for breast cancer is to notice any changes and to contact your physician to discuss them.
There’s no exact answer for why is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month rather than any other month, but putting aside time to focus on education and fundraising for breast cancer can save thousands of lives. Every year, millions of women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and hundreds of thousands will die. Because there’s no cure for all cancers, an early diagnosis is the main way to increase survival rates, but if men and women don’t know what are the signs of breast cancer, many cases will go undiagnosed until it’s too late. October Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985, and former First Lady Betty Ford, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer during her husband’s presidency, was in attendance at the inaugural events to help educate other women and raise money for research. So, why is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Simply because awareness of how to check for breast cancer and what to look for can save your life or the life of someone you love.
Breast cancer is a life-threatening disease, and without knowledge about what is breast cancer or access to health care, more men and women will die from this disease. By setting aside time to educate people on the signs of breast cancer and to raise money for research, we’ll see the number of cases dwindle every year.