While most recognize the pink ribbons associated with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, very few can spot the signs of breast cancer, which is why this October, you should take the time to learn about your own body and health, a step that could end up saving your life or that of someone close to you. Every year, millions of new cases of breast cancer are detected around the world, cases that cut the lives of hundreds of thousands too short. Research has yet to find a cure for cancer, but the facts all point to the idea that early detection makes a difference. During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, take time to learn about what is breast cancer and how you can detect it before it is too late.
Breast Cancer occurs when normal body cells start multiplying at an abnormal and uncontrollable rate, and it can occur in the lobules, ducts, or connective tissue of the breast. Like other cancers, breast cancer can easily spread to other parts of the body and become deadly, especially when left undiagnosed. With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, many cases of breast cancer can be cured, but when it goes unnoticed, chances for survival decrease. Many men and women fail to observe the signs of breast cancer because they either don’t know what to check for or they lack access to quality health care. The goal of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to increase education and access to physicians and mammograms so that the effects of the disease are much less widespread.
Why is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month instead of some other time throughout the year? There really is no definitive answer to this question other than the fact that the organization that initiated nationwide support for breast cancer awareness was founded in October. When coupled with the fact that other important events, such as the Komen Race for the Cure, were also held in October, it seemed like the perfect time to build what would become a global campaign. In the United States, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was begun in 1985 when the American Cancer Society and a pharmaceutical company combined forces. With vested interest in promoting breast cancer awareness, they hosted their inaugural event, inviting important figures, including former First Lady Betty Ford who was a breast cancer survivor. Since then, October has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and during the month, survivors have shared their stories, families have remembered their lost loved ones, and research and education have been promoted around the world.
Even though there’s no single answer to why is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, doctors know that detecting signs of breast cancer early increases chances of survival. The best way to detect signs of breast cancer is to start performing a monthly self-exam and to become familiar with what your normal breast tissue feels like so that you can talk with your physician about any changes.
Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror, noting the color, shape, and skin texture. Changes in color or dimpling in the skin can be signs of breast cancer.
Then, raise one arm above your head at a time, and with the opposite hand, firmly press into your armpits and around your breasts making a circular motion with your finger pads, feeling for any knots, lumps, or changes in texture.
While lying on your back, run your finger pads from the nipple out all around each breast, again feeling for any lumps or changes.
By doing this once a month, you’ll become familiar with the normal shape and texture of your breast, helping you to notice if there is any change. Women who are 40 are also recommended to get a yearly mammogram to detect any signs of breast cancer.
Understanding what is breast cancer and how to spot it is at the heart of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. By helping men and women understand the disease and self-exam techniques, more people will be able to start treatment sooner, and with increased funding for research and medical access, more people around the world will be able to beat breast cancer.