It’s hard to miss the pink banners and ribbons and clothing everywhere – including in the NFL, where referees and players are wearing pink shoes, cleats, uniforms and headgear to support awareness of breast cancer.
October is the month for worldwide Breast Cancer Awareness, which encourages women to get screened for cancer and be aware of the risks.
Breast cancer, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. That’s more than 246,000 women each year.
At SHS, Bobby Mickens, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Director of Women’s Services, asks women age 40 and older to get screened annually with a mammogram and encourages all women to perform regular monthly self-checks in case there is a need for earlier testing.
“My No. 1 question is always, ‘Do you do self-exams?’,” she said. “I want you to develop a relationship with your breasts. This is also referred to as breast awareness. Learning your breast can significantly assist in the process of early detection. Knowing how your breast normally look and feel will let you know when you should alert your healthcare provider and schedule an appointment.”
Bobby says you don’t have to be a pro to do your own check. Her tips:
- Do a self-check at the end of your period, every month. This is when your breast will be their most normal. If you no longer have periods, still do the check at the same time each month.
- Look and feel for anything unusual – a lump, discharge, or any changes in the size of the breast or areola. Also note any changes in the skin such as flaking or redness.
- While performing these checks make sure to include checking your armpit. That’s because the breast tissue extends around your side, under your arm.
- If you find anything out of the ordinary, call us to have it checked.
“Two of the biggest issues we have in getting our patients to come in for screenings are lack of knowledge about the need for screening, and fear that something might be wrong,” she said.
Often women will find a lump but try to ignore it, hoping it goes away, wasting precious time working up courage to get it assessed. Bobby encourages women to act quickly to deal with any potential issues as early as possible. Early detection is critical in providing the best outcomes for breast cancer patients, because in its earliest stages, breast cancer is 98 percent curable.
“The best way to protect yourself is through early screening and detection,” she said. “I urge every woman to pay close attention to those screenings and get them as recommended by your provider. They save lives.”
Additional facts about breast cancer from the American Cancer Society:
- Early detection of breast cancer improves chances that treatment will work.
- There are an estimated 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women (only lung cancer kills more women)
- Don’t forget about MEN! Though rare, the lifetime risk of a male getting breast cancer is 1 in 1,000.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Breast Exams
- What you need to know about getting a mammogram
- Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
- Breast self-exam
Call SHS at 816-923-5800 for your well-woman exam today. We’re always here to answer your questions.