Living hope: Catching breast cancer early

Did you know that one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their life? Did you also know that it is recommended that women perform self-checks at least once a month? Many people aren’t aware of this information, which is why October has been declared national Breast Cancer Awareness month. This serves to remind women that checking on their health is a necessary step that could potentially save their lives.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), breast cancer begins as a group of cancerous cells that can then spread to other parts of the body. A tumor is a mass of tissue that is created as a result of an irregularity during the cell growth process. Although having a family history of the disease could increase the possibility of developing breast cancer, statistics show that most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

Breast cancer in real life

Jamie Freedman, a senior and law studies major at NSU, was only 18 years old when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, three years ago.

“After being misdiagnosed multiple times by many doctors, my mom found out she did indeed have breast cancer but was able to go on new experimental medicine that has not only changed her life but everyone around her,” said Freedman. “Though my mom gets a treatment every month to keep the cancer away, it is not growing or spreading anymore and she is doing fantastic.”

Jamie had to be strong and positive, along with the rest of her family, to help her mother overcome cancer. Based on her experience, she offered some advice to people that might be going through a similar situation.

“The best advice I can give is to just keep a strong positive outlook,” she said. “Because you want to spread as much positive energy as possible. Trust me, your loved ones will need it.”

Screening processes save lives
Doctors, like those that treated Freedman’s mother, are finding new ways to battle breast cancer. That’s why early detection of breast cancer is so important — so that doctors can intervene quickly and effectively. Self-checks are helpful, but regular visits to your physician or gynecologist can save your life. In a clinical breast exam, your doctor will examine your breasts for abnormalities in their appearance and shape.

Mammograms are another way to detect breast cancer signs. According to the NBCF, this examination allows specialists to detect a breast lump before it can be felt. It is recommended that women who are 40 years or older have a mammogram every one or two years.

How to perform the self-examination

Monthly breast self-examinations can help determine whether there have been any changes in your breast tissue from one month to the other. Here’s a condensed version of the advice the National Breast Cancer Society has on self-screening:  

If you do find abnormalities, meet with your doctor immediately. Women can get into three positions to perform the self-examinations; in the shower, in front of a mirror or when lying down.

When in the shower, circle your fingers from the outside of your breasts toward the inside, making sure you check the entirety of your breasts and your armpit area, too.

If you stand in front of a mirror, observe both of your breasts’ shape; it is likely that they will look slightly different in size and position but this is fine. Raise both arms and look at the contour of your breasts, looking for any possible changes in texture, shape and position. Then, place your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles, to look for any dimpling, puckering or other changes.

If you choose to lay down, place a pillow underneath your right arm and shoulder and put your left hand on the right breast. Draw small circles covering the entire breast and armpit, just as in the shower examination.

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