As we come upon Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, I pray that I can make a difference, in encouraging at least one more woman to do her monthly self breast exam (SBE), or schedule her annual mammogram. I have begun returning to work in between medical appointments, and am striving back for that "normalcy", with limits of course. I can't tell you how many people have said, "Shelby, what if you didn't go get your mammogram?" "What if you hadn't felt the lump?" My husband, my principal, co-workers, friends, and family have all asked the same question...WHAT IF? Fortunately by the Grace of God and my meddling husband and mother, I went! (In that case, saying thank you for minding my business just doesn't have the same effect, does it?)
There are lots of different methods for completing self breast exams. BreastCancer.Org has a five step plan. The American Cancer Society has these instructions. Other suggestions for the breast self exam are offered on the WebMD web site. Once a woman reaches the age of 20, she should begin doing monthly self breast exams.
reminder email sign-up program. The UCSD Cancer Center also has a monthly reminder program. Regardless of whether you utilize one of these email programs, put it in your smartphone calendar, Outlook calendar, or just remember....do it! As cliche as it sounds, "Feel Your Boobies".
Current mammography recommendations differ, in that some organizations state routine / baseline mammograms should begin at age 40, while others suggest age 50. If you are over the age of 40...when is the last time you've had a mammogram?
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure site shares the following warning signs:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
Another important factor in breast health is to know your family history. Ask around...did Aunt Paula have breast cancer, or Uncle Steve have prostrate cancer? (Did you know that they are genetically linked?) Forget about tending to your relative's business, but if a female relative has a lump, cyst, etc... she needs to share it with the family.
"Feeling my boobies" most likely saved my life...and it might save yours also. (Remember that 1 in 8 statistic.) If you don't gather anything else from my journey, remember how important your breast health is. Complete your monthly self exam. Sign up for an email reminder. Schedule your routine mammogram. Have your health care provider exam your breasts during physicals. If you are a male, remind your female loved ones, as well as become familiar with your breast health.
As mothers, we often postpone our health needs for the needs of our children or time constraints. This is one case where you need to put yourself first. I'll tell you like my mother told me, when she found I put off getting a mammogram for a few months, "If you don't want another woman raising your children....go get it checked!"
(This post is lovingly dedicated to my husband...who will never let me forget how he made me go get my mammogram - via Helen!)