Think Pink: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Article by Cristal Orpilla, RN

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October, in the annual health calendar,  is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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It affects 1 in 8 women, and at some point in our lives, many of us will come across someone- a mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister, an aunt-   who has had to struggle with breast cancer.  Breast Cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of women in the United States, next to lung cancer.  As a professional nurse in the field of women’s and children’s health,  I am a strong believer in the importance of educating oneself about breast health and early detection. The heart of the matter is that knowing your body well is the first steps to early detection and prevention of breast cancer.

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What is Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer occurs when there is uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the breast. Over time, the cancer cells form a mass (called a tumor),  and attack surrounding cell tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

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What are the symptoms of Breast Cancer?

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Early detection catches breast cancer before symptoms begin.  However,  if you notice any of the following,  contact your primary doctor ASAP.

  • A lump in or near your breast or under your arm
  • Thick or firm tissue in or near your breast or under your arm
  • A change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Nipple discharge that is not breast milk
  • Nipple changes, such as a nipple that turns inward (inverted) into the breast
  • Itching, redness, scaling, dimpling, or puckering in the surrounding skin of the breast or nipple

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Breast Cancer Screening

Regular screening is the best way to find breast cancer early in most women. Screening helps to look for signs of cancer before a woman begins to have symptoms. It can help detect breast cancer early, so that chances of treating it successfully are best. There are 2 tests commonly used to screen for breast cancer:

-Mammogram– A low-dose X-ray exam of the breasts to look for changes that are not normal. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women age 40 and older have screening mammograms every 1-2 years.

-Clinical breast exam (CBE)- During a CBE, a doctor assesses your breasts by looking at them and feeling for any lumps or abnormalities on the breasts and under the arms. It is recommended that women in their 20’s should see a doctor and undergo a clinical breast exam every three years. Once a woman turns 40, it is recommended that the frequency of exams be changed to once a year.

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Although women probably schedule mammograms and CBE’s,  the best way to truly catch breast cancer early is through frequent self-exams.  It can be easily done in the shower or before bed. You are the only one who knows your body well,  so familiarity with any abnormal changes is best detected by you.

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How to do a Self-Breast Exam

– With your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts while standing in front of a mirror, checking for lumps, new differences in size and shape, and swelling or dimpling of the skin.

– While standing or sitting, slightly raise one arm, then the other, so you can check your underarm area for lumps.

-Lie down and put your left arm under your head. This spreads the breast tissue more evenly on your chest. Examine your left breast with your right hand by using the pads of your 3 middle fingers to move gently in small motions over the entire area of the breast, checking for any lump, hard knot, or thickening. Use different degrees of pressure–light, medium, and firm–to feel breast tissue at different levels in your breast. Do the same with your right breast.  Follow the below pattern to check each breast.

–  Check your nipples by  squeezing the nipple of each breast gently between your thumb and index finger, noting any abnormal discharge or fluid from the nipples.

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So think pink and learn about breast cancer awareness and share the knowledge! The life you save could be your own.

Images courtesy of Flickr.com

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Cristal

Cristal

Online Editor, Beauty Writer at Beauty-Goodies
As a New York City-based registered nurse with backgrounds in pharmacology, medical research, medical spa aesthetics, and cosmetic dermatology, Cristal became interested in the ways people go about achieving beauty. When she's not working full-time at Cornell Medical Center or performing aesthetic treatments at a midtown NYC medical spa, she daylights as a beauty writer, and has a penchant for scoring sample sale treasures, bellydancing, playing dress-up, and of course, chatting about beauty goodies.
Cristal

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