It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Are You Feeling it on the First and Taking Screening Precautions?

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Are You Feeling it on the First and Taking Screening Precautions?

It’s breast cancer awareness month. Are you feeling it on the first and taking screening precautions? Women in healthcare know they need to take care of themselves, but often we are so busy taking care of others that we don’t take time for ourselves. 

Going Beyond Breast Cancer Awareness Month 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded in 1985. From the start, the NBCAM has aimed to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. However, many people are coming forward, renaming the month to Breast Cancer Action Month, in hopes that education is brought forward over the standard pink awareness and fundraising that has been the focus in previous years.

Feel it on The First  

Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

What to look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling

Step 2: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.

Step 3: While you’re looking in the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).

Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion about the size of a quarter.

Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.

Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.

Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4.

Read more from Nalie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 23. 

 Male Breast Cancer 

Every year, 2,620 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Black men have the highest incident rate (2.7 out of every 100,000 men. Additionally, they have the lowest rate of recovery. To learn more about male breast cancer, check out Anne Peled, MD’s recent article: Male Breast Cancer: Traditionally under-diagnosed and under-researched, but hopefully changed.  

Mammograms

Mammograms are suggested annually for those over the age of 40. However, many women have been diagnosed with breast cancer more recently under the age of 40. Doing self-exams are a critical screening process. To learn more about when to request your mammogram, visit this website

Mammography Saves Lives has made it their focus to bring awareness around the importance of mammograms and to help cover the most commonly asked questions, concerns, and misconceptions. 

BRCA Testing 

The BRCA gene test is a blood test that uses DNA analysis to identify harmful changes (mutations) in either one of the two breast cancer susceptibility genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2.

People who inherit mutations in these genes are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer compared with the general population.

Testing Positive For BRCA or a Diagnosis 

There are many options now, thanks to advancements in technology. Rather than needing a complete mastectomy, losing sensation, nipples and all breast tissue, physicians are able to give women an experience that in some cases, is better than before. 

Nipple Sparing Mastectomies

Just as it sounds, Nipple Sparing Mastectomies allow the patients to keep their nipples after a mastectomy. However, once the breast tissue is removed, the ability to breastfeed or have sensation is still missing. 

“In 2009, approximately 8 percent of mastectomies performed at Mayo Clinic were nipple sparing. Five years later, the nipple-sparing procedure had more than tripled to approximately 30 percent of all mastectomies, and according to Dr. Jakub, the number continues to increase.” 

Sensation Preserving Mastectomies 

A newer offering, many physicians do not offer this option. In fact, many patients never know it’s an option because it is so seldom offered. Not because it’s still in trials, but because many physicians are not skilled or trained in the technique. Anne Peled, MD and her husband Ziv Peled, a peripheral nerve and plastic surgeon, began using their highly specialized skill sets to preserve and restore sensation during mastectomies and implant-based reconstruction. 

Have you tested positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2? Have you fought through a cancer diagnosis? Are you staying on top of your testing and awareness? Let us know in the comments below. 

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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