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Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Screening, Surviving, and Caregiving

Breast Cancer Awareness
By Kathyrn Parks

When it comes to breast cancer, most women are aware that they need to get screened yearly. The problem isn’t the knowledge that this needs to happen, it’s getting so caught up in all the things that need to be done, that it gets pushed aside and it doesn’t become a priority. This seems to be a universal issue that women struggle with, naturally trying to take care of everything and everyone else around them before they worry about themselves. This is why breast cancer awareness month was started, so that women around the world would be reminded that they needed to take a moment out of their busy schedules to put themselves first, to put their health first, to get screened, to focus on surviving, so that they are able to carry on doing the things that they do best.

Screening for Breast Cancer – An Important First Step

The most important factor when it comes to fighting any kind of cancer, is finding it early. Breast cancer in particular is most treatable in early stages. The earlier you know, the more likely you are to recover. In order to accomplish this, ladies have overlapping methods for screening that can help with getting that diagnosis sooner.

  • Breast Self-Exams – We know it may be difficult to add something extra to your routine, especially when it’s something that you only do once a month, but adding a monthly breast self-exam can help you notice important changes to your breasts’ size, texture, and skin condition. Those who are able to do breast self-exams monthly find it easier to recognize how their breasts normally look or feel, which makes changes easier to recognize sooner. In order to add this habit to your routine, line it up with something else you do monthly. An example might include the first day of your menstrual cycle. New habits are easy to form when you add them to existing habits. Schedule an appointment with your doctor right away if you notice something abnormal.
  • Clinical Breast Exams – Don’t skip out on your yearly well-woman visit. This should always be a priority, because along with the normal checks to your other body parts, your doctor should do a breast exam that covers the breasts, underarms, and the collarbone area for abnormalities. If you’re doing your monthly checks in the shower, then this is an additional step done by a professional that can help you catch anything you might have missed.
  • Yearly Mammogram – It’s October! If you haven’t scheduled your yearly mammogram, then it’s time to do that! These life-saving breast x-rays might be slightly uncomfortable, but they show lumps and abnormalities before you can feel them. There are also facilities that offer 3D screenings that are less uncomfortable if you’re worried about the pain. These 3D breast CT scanners are even more advanced than traditional x-ray mammograms, and usually only take about 10 seconds to complete. If your mammogram happens in a different month than your well-woman visit, then you’ll be doing a great job of checking in on cancer several times a year.

Screening may need to occur at different ages for different people. Those who have a history of breast cancer in their family may need to start screening at an earlier age. Check with your physician to learn more about when you should start screening with a yearly mammogram just to be safe.

Surviving Breast Cancer

There are 4 different types of breast cancer, and many different subsets of breast cancer. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is called metastatic breast cancer, commonly spreading to the bones, lungs, liver, and brain. Breast cancer research consistently improves our knowledge about treatment options as well as the specific causes of breast cancer. This is why supporting breast cancer causes are so important, that funding allows us to continue to fight the fight so that one day we can find a cure.

While most breast cancer can develop without a cause or reason, in both men and women, it is important to recognize the symptoms:

  • Swelling, lumps, or masses in the breast, armpit, or collarbone area
  • Unusual breast pain or discomfort in the chest or armpit areas
  • Nipple discharge or pain, usually spontaneously and from the affected side only
  • Inverted nipple or scaly or pitted skin on the nipple

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment with your physician immediately, even if you don’t feel any lumps in a self-exam.

Providing Care to a Loved One With Breast Cancer

Cancer, regardless of the type, can affect many areas of someone’s life, as well as their loved ones’ lives. If you or a loved one is living with breast cancer, then it is important to make sure that you are both supported.

  • Research – go out of your way to learn more about the specific type of breast cancer that you or your loved one is dealing with. This includes the procedure for diagnosis, testing, the different treatment options, and what others have found is useful when it comes to coping with the journey.
  • Find Support – Whether you find a friend, family member, or counselor to talk to, you and your loved one will need support and empathy on the path to healing. Connect with other survivors, and other caregivers to help guide you as you go through the next stage.
  • Consider Respite Care – When it comes to providing care to someone living with cancer, it can be an overwhelming task to undertake. Find a few hours to yourself to rest, recharge, and re-center. Lean on someone who can relieve you of tedious tasks that end up being stressful, such as a respite caregiver who can help clean up, provide companionship, and simply be there for your loved one so that you can take a break.

Don’t forget that Homewatch CareGivers of Annapolis is here for you. It is always a privilege to provide our clients with compassionate and professional assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have more questions or keep browsing our website for more information.

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