When it comes to a breast cancer diagnosis, there are 3 very important keys to survival that are supremely important to remember. Screening, Support, and Caregiving. Breast cancer awareness month was started to remind women around the world that they needed to take a moment out of their very busy schedules to put themselves first, to put their health first, to get screened, to focus on getting support, and to allow themselves to be cared for. These steps allow the women in our lives who are affected by breast cancer carry on doing the things that they do best.
1. 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’s 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 overall body, 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 who 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 can 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.
2. Finding Support If You’re Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
There is definitely an emotional component to surviving breast cancer, and that centers around the support that you’re able to find. Reach out to your friends, family, and loved ones, and make sure that you do everything in your power to stay tethered to some kind of normalcy. Go out with friends for coffee, hang out with your family during holidays, and find a way to get out and keep being a part of things. The last thing you should do is isolate yourself.
Many survivors of breast cancer suggest support groups, with women who are going through the same problems. This way you’re able to share your concerns, your fears, and your worries with those who understand and feel the same way. The goal is to not feel alone in your diagnosis. There are many people out there who are going through the same things you are, and you should rely on this network for support. Look for groups online, or through the hospital or clinic you’re working with.
3. Allowing Yourself to be Cared For – Working with Your Caregiver
Whether your main caregiver is your spouse, a friend, or another family member, it is important to remember that they’re there because they want to help. Don’t be afraid to lean on your caregiver for that support, but also, don’t forget that your family caregiver still has their own responsibilities and needs.
Sometimes it is helpful to sit down with your main caregiver and make a list of things they’ll need help with, then together go through a list of other friends and family who are willing to help and ask them together whether they can do that. These tasks can range from dinner one night a week, to running errands, and even helping with transportation to doctor visits and treatment visits. It’s natural to not want to overburden your family caregiver, but if you make a plan in advance, then you won’t be. Work with your caregiver, and be open to options such as respite care where you get professional assistance a few hours a week so that your caregiver has time to themselves.
Don’t forget that if you have a loved one who has currently been diagnosed with cancer of any kind that as a family caregiver, you need to do the best that you can to stay healthy! Don’t forget to take time out of your caregiving schedule for your yearly well-woman visits and mammograms. If you have a hard time getting away, contact us for respite care services, we can take over for a few hours so you can take care of yourself. Don’t forget that Homewatch CareGivers of Bryan College Station is here for you. It is always a great privilege to provide all of 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.