Don’t just be aware of breast cancer, beware.
This is the simple statement offered by my mother when I asked what advice she would give to moms about breast cancer. She’s always been my hero but after watching her beat breast cancer that word has an even deeper meaning. She embodies everything I strive to be as a person. Her strength is absolutely personified with this subject. My October contribution is dedicated to you, mommy.
I first became aware of breast cancer in 1995 when my father’s sister was diagnosed. I was in the second grade when Aunt Diane died and I vividly remember her funeral.
I can clearly hear the gospel songs that were sung and danced to just as I can picture my Aunt Renee’s bald head as she battled breast cancer herself while burying her sister. Diane’s life was cut short and her unsuccessful battle was rapid, or so it seemed. I would only find out as an adult that she had had warning signs much earlier. Aunt Renee became aware at that time, as did the rest of the women in our family. We began to talk about how to perform regular self checks and scheduled doctor visits and mammograms. She was diagnosed with an early stage breast cancer and because it was detected early, she was able to beat it. Survival rates of breast cancer heavily depend on stage of detection.
Now, most of us don’t have to wait for the death of a loved one to become “aware” of breast cancer. October brings the pink wave. Every gas station sells pink rubber bracelets. Football teams from the NFL to Pee-Wee players wrap their wrists and shoes with pink pre-wrap tape. We all do our part by running 5k races to raise awareness. Yet if I asked you right now what some of the signs or symptoms of breast cancer are would you know?
Most people immediately think about finding a lump.
Yes, regular self checks are important in order to be familiar with your breast tissue and can make it easier to detect a change. An unusual “lump” in the breast or underarm is a sign that you should see your doctor. Although the title says “beware” you can take a breath and calm down because 80% of lumps are not cancerous and could simply be a cyst. At my current stage of life, I’m breastfeeding and the girls get lumpy when we produce milk. (Breastfeeding decreases risk of breast cancer by the way!) Milky discharge when not breastfeeding is another possible sign. There are also different varieties of breast cancer which may not always present as a lump.
I invite you to move beyond awareness. Of course, we still support pink and use all the cute slogans. #SaveTheTatas! But let’s dive deeper. Share these links with your mom, sister, aunt, girlfriend and yes even the men in your life. Early detection saves lives.
Don’t be afraid to consult your healthcare provider for any odd or unusual changes. Better safe than sorry. Be well, mama.
Local breast cancer resources