Self Care – Why Breast Cancer Awareness Should Be Important To You

I started becoming more knowledgeable about the large term of breast cancer, which actually refers to any type of cancer that develops in any part of the breast tissue, when I first found out my grandmother died from the disease. I was effected personally three more times more recently – first, when my mom was diagnosed, then a co-worker lost her fight, and lastly when my own breast cancer specialist had first found a tumor in my right breast.  I am only 37.  For these reasons, I feel it is very important that ALL women check themselves regularly for any changes to their breasts, and to see their doctors regularly whenever possible for the earliest detection possible.

The most common types of breast cancer start  in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply them with milk.   To explain further, our bodies are made up of cells. Normally, cells reproduce themselves all the time however, disease can cause cells to form abnormally and they can start to grow out of control.  When this happens, cancer develops. Breast cancer can also spread to many other parts of the body including organs by going through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system. This spreading of cancer is also called metastasis.   It’s quite frightening when you think about it, right? This is why it’s so very important for every woman, no matter age, race, or ethnicity, to be aware of any changes in their breasts.   Most often when breast cancer is detected, it is because of symptoms (such as a lump) that a woman discovers during usual activities such as bathing or dressing. 

Here is a good start:  Women need to become more familiar with their breasts.  Breasts change all of the time, not only during natural aging or when one becomes pregnant, but also during the monthly menstrual cycle. So, learn to know your breasts! Observe their appearance and sizes in a mirror. Watch for changes of any moles that you may have.  Feel for lumps, but also check for differences in your skin and dimples or indents in the breast.   If you have any, make sure to make an appointment with your doctor!  Also, follow your doctors advice for any breast cancer screenings. Check out the American Cancer Society’s recommendations for screenings here.   Most importantly,  if you are worried about having a family history of breast cancer, like I was, you can speak to your GP about referral to a breast specialist.  In my case, an ultrasound during a check up with a specialist because of my family history, was what helped find my 1st tumor early.

One Important Fact about Breast Cancer and African Americans

  • In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer. For Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women, the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower. (source) 

Breast Cancer Symptoms

In addition to breast cancer, there are many other reasons that may cause changes to your breasts size or appearance. That’s why it is so important to get any concerns checked by a doctor.  Cysts, infections or even fibrocystic changes could all change the breast tissue, however, a few more alarming symptoms to look out for include:

·         an orange peel-like pitting of any part of your breast

·         Bloody or clear discharge out of your nipples, and/or a lump in your breast

·         Changes in size or shape

·         There is dimpling and/or indentation in the skin of the breast

·         There is a retraction or indent on your nipple, an inverted nipple

.          Tenderness or thickening on or around the breast

What I’ve listed above ARE NOT all of the symptoms of Breast Cancer at all and sometimes there will be none at all.  Early detection is key!!  Thanks to the many advancements in medical technology, being diagnosed with breast cancer doesn’t necessarily mean you have a death sentence, especially when caught early.  The more knowledge that you inquire about this disease and learn about the possible treatments that can help to give you a fighting chance, the better.

So…   Be vigilant, be on guard, and be blessed!

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