With October being breast cancer awareness month we thought it appropriate to mention the importance of administering the ultimate in self-care - self-breast exams. For most women under 40, this is key to early detection.
I'm sure that most of us know someone who has been affected by cancer in some way. As women, the least we can do for ourselves is to become intimately familiar with our breast tissue, and do what we can to protect ourselves. In our opinion, this looks like education, using clean products, and allowing our breasts to spend time in freedom without being strapped up. But rather than go further into what we think you should do, we thought hearing from someone who has been through it all would be far more valuable. Below is our friend Emily Riester Green, PhD's personal account on the issue.
Take time, and take care and thank you Emily!
It is October, more than likely you’ve seen or heard something related to breast cancer awareness. Last year, I would see the posts, pink shirts, and information stands in stores. I thought it was nice but didn’t pay much attention. Everything has changed. This year, I see all of the messages through the eyes of a cancer survivor.
One cool Saturday morning in December, my children (5 year old twins and a 2 year old) and I were snuggling in bed. My twin girl accidentally kicked me when I was lying on my side with my arm raised above my head. Surprised by the pain, I grabbed my chest, and my world was changed in an instant.
I felt a lump.
When standing or lying down, I noticed a tiny bump, like a pinpoint, but when on my side with my arm raised, it was roughly the size of a peanut. I made an appointment Monday and was diagnosed with invasive mammary carcinoma that Friday. The doctor even had a hard time feeling the lump until I was on my side; I insisted that I roll so she could feel it.
Today, I am not here to tell you my story, but to impart on you the importance of self-breast exams. Self-breast exams are essential to women of all ages, even breastfeeding women, but especially women under the age of 40. Our breast tissue is dense, making screening tools such as mammograms less effective. Up to 80% of women under 40 detect a breast abnormality themselves. I was 33 when I identified mine.
The self-care movement is continually gaining momentum, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. A self-breast exam is an excellent tool to add to your regimen. It is free, takes relatively little time and gives you the opportunity to really learn your body. You know your body better than anyone, and conducting a self-exam every month lets you understand “your normal” so that if there is an issue, you can detect it early and seek assistance.
The swiftness of my actions greatly impacted my prognosis. I’ve completed my treatments and am recovering well. My goal is not to induce panic or fear, but to lovingly encourage you to take charge of your health and wellbeing. Ultimately, it is up to you to be your own advocate and to take your health in your hands. This October, I invite you all to begin a self-care regimen that includes a breast exam, and to ardently encourage friends and family to do the same.
For more facts on early detection.
Emily Riester Green, PhD, resides in Pendleton, South Carolina with her husband and three children.