October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and here at Ellie, we support the fight against the disease. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. An estimated 268,600 women (and 2,670 men) will be diagnosed with breast cancer, this year, in the United States, while about 41,760 women (and 500 men) will die of the disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, in the next hour alone, 4 families will lose a loved one to breast cancer.
With statistics like these, we have to fight.
- On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers.
- Although rare, men get breast cancer too. The lifetime risk for U.S. men is about 1 in 1,000.
- 62% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage, for which the 5-year survival rate is 99%.
- There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Early detection is key when it comes to the fight against breast cancer. The decline in death rates is attributed to improvements in early detection. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer death rates declined 40% from 1989 to 2016 among women. Paying close attention to your body — at all times — is a good way to stay on top of your breast health (and health in general). We cannot stress enough, the importance of early detection. Being able to catch signs or symptoms in the very early stages has been known to increase chances of survival.
It is important to note that women can be diagnosed with breast cancer at any age. General guidelines surrounding early detection — according to age — go as follows:
Speak to your physician about the most appropriate screening schedule for you — the timing, frequency, and other needs of your exams. Talk to your doctor if you have first-degree relatives affected by the disease.
According to the National Cancer Institute, symptoms of breast cancer are not usually noticeable until the tumor grows and changes how the breast looks or feels.
Common changes include:
A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
A change in the size or shape of the breast.
Dimpling or puckering in the skin of the breast.
A nipple turned inward into the breast.
Discharge (fluid) from the nipple, especially if it’s bloody.
Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin at the center of the breast).
- Ridges or pitting on the skin so that it looks like the skin of an orange.
According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” While the goal of a mammogram is early detection (they can help detect cancer characteristics before they develop into a lump), self-examinations help you understand your breasts, so that you can alert your health care professional, should even the slightest of changes occur.
Place your right hand – palm flat – against the back of your head.
With the fingertips of your left hand, press lightly, then firmly against your entire right breast to feel for lumps.
Switch hands and repeat the process, using your right hand to check your left breast.
Stand straight with hands on hips. Check in the mirror for any changes in breast texture, shape, size, nipple appearance, or unusual discharge.
Lie down with a small pillow or folded towel under your left shoulder and left hand behind your head.
Use your right hand to check your left breast and under your armpit using your “Shower Test” pattern.
Move pillow under your right shoulder. Switch arm positions and repeat the process using your left hand to check your right breast.
There exists is a wealth of information, when it comes to breast cancer awareness. Let’s support each other in staying on top of our breast health! For more information about breast cancer — including how to find support, resources, volunteer opportunities, and more — please visit National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website at www.nationalbreastcancer.org.
*Statistics cited in this article originate from the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society.