As a woman I have always felt aware of breast cancer. My mom’s best friend had breast cancer when I was growing up and I felt like I was always hearing about looking for lumps and mammograms from the adult women around me. I thought, "Why do we need an awareness month when we girls and women are fully aware?"
Needless to say when my mosquito bite breasts started to come in (you know the little knots that develop right when you go into puberty) I thought they were lumps and I was going to die. I wasn’t fully aware of what was actually going on with my body and not fully aware of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not just to inform people that “hey, breast cancer is a thing!” We all know it’s a thing. It is to make us aware of changes in our bodies. It is to help us understand the myths about it, that there are more symptoms than just lumps, what the risk factors are, and how to detect breast cancer. Here are just a few things to be aware of according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Risk Factors of Developing Breast Cancer
- Permanent hair dyes and straighteners
- Having more than one drink of alcohol per day
- Using oral birth control for more than five years
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Family history, although most women who develop breast cancer have no family history of it
- Dense breast tissue
- Starting your period before the age of 12
- Have no biological children
- Had their first child after 30
- Began menopause after 55
Decreases Risk Factors
- Breast Feeding
- Eating Healthy
- Give yourself a breast exam at least once a month
- Look for changes in breast tissue: size, a palpable lump, dimpling or puckering, inversion of the nipple, redness or scaliness of the skin or nipple, or discharge from the nipple.
- Have a physical from your doctor that includes a breast exam.
- Women 40 and older should have a mammogram every 1-2 years
- Women younger than 40 with additional risk factors should ask their healthcare providers when is best to start getting a mammogram.
- Finding a lump in your breast always means you have cancer.
- Men do not get breast cancer.
- A mammogram can spread breast cancer.
- Antiperspirants and deodorant causes breast cancer.
- Underwire bras causes breast cancer.
- Caffeine causes breast cancer.
Breast cancer is what it is: scary. Most of us have a loved one who has been diagnosed, survived, or died from breast cancer--we may have been diagnosed ourselves, and so we are painfully aware of its effects. Making sure that we are aware of how to detect it early on and protect ourselves from risk factors is essential. (Those that we can--some are out of our control.) And although breast cancer is scary, having knowledge of it gives us power.