By: Katherine Snyder
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – October is the time of year where we bask in the beautiful fall temperatures, leaves falling from the trees and pumpkin-flavored everything. However, it is also when we recognize those who have developed breast cancer, as well as who have passed and survived. About one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over her lifetime. In 2018 alone, there is an estimation of 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Awareness month is a very important month for me, as it runs strongly through the women in my family. I have a very large family, and among them, two of my five aunts, and two of my four grandmothers have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and all of them survived. Unfortunately, my one aunt had later developed colon cancer after beating breast cancer for 25 years, and passed away this past May. Breast cancer has been a concern in my family for a long time, and luckily none of the young women in my family, as well as my mother, have developed it.
You may be thinking, “I’m a young college student and can’t develop breast cancer until I’m older,” and that is incorrect. Each year, approximately 70,000 men and women age 15 to 39 are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. There is really no way to avoid possibly developing it, especially if it’s in your family’s genes. About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations – abnormal changes – inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common.
If you’re worried about developing breast cancer or if you’re generally concerned about your health, you are able to perform a self-breast examination at home. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc., self-examinations should be performed once a month, as 40 percent of breast cancers are detected by women who perform a self-exam and feel an invasive lump or hard spot. The exam can be performed in the shower, laying down or in the mirror. They’re generally easy to perform. You use your pointer and middle finger, press and feel around for any abnormalities. You can also look in the mirror to observe any non-invasive or invasive formations that look abnormal.
Even though you can self-examine yourself for breast cancer, it is encouraged to get a mammogram done to see if you do have any abnormalities, such as tumors. Routine mammograms are performed usually twice a year. If you do notice or feel a lump, schedule a mammogram and do not freak out. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc., eight out of ten lumps are usually not cancerous.
Together, we can all help raise money to find a cure for breast cancer. However long that may be, knowing the statistics and how to perform a self-examination is crucial. For more information on statistics and how to perform a self-breast exam, visit http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org.
Feature image by Marco Verch under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)