At some point in our lives cancer will touch us. Some of us will experience the disease through a family member, significant other, or friend, while others will face the battle personally. 1 out of every 36 women in the United States will learn about breast cancer intimately and it will lead her death (ACS, 2014). The key to minimizing one’s risk of becoming part of this statistic is awareness.
Breast cancer awareness includes being knowledgeable about what predispositions a woman may have that can cause the disease to present itself; being aware of preventative measures that an individual can take; and having the ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Unavoidable factors that increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer include being older in age, having the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene, a biological family member being diagnosed with the disease, having dense breasts, early menses (before age 12), menopause after the age of 55, having had cancer as a child or adolescent, and haven taken the medication Diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy (ACS, 2014).
After reading this list, you may be feeling a little uneasy because many women may fall into one or more of these categories at some point in her life. To ease your fears, let me inform you of some of the preventative measures that can be taken to minimize a woman’s risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Routine physical activity, weight management, and maintaining a healthy diet have all been shown to reduce a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer (ACS, 2014). For those who fall into the high-risk category, either due having a genetic disposition or multiple risk factors for breast cancer, seeking medical advice from a healthcare professional is the best course of action (ACS, 2014).
In addition to taking preventative measures, it is important for women over the age of 20 perform self-breast exams, as well as have clinical breast exams performed by a healthcare professional, women age 40 and above should have an annual screening mammogram, and all women should know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer as early detection is the key to an increased rate of survival (ACS, 2014). Among the signs and symptoms of breast cancer are swelling of the breast, skin irritation or dimpling of the breast, breast pain, nipple pain, redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin, and abnormal nipple discharge (ACS, 2014).
Arming yourself with all these facts will not only increase your awareness about breast cancer, but will also put you one step ahead of the disease should it ever rear its ugly head. My hope is that you will pass your knowledge on and become an advocate for breast cancer awareness. Together we can make a difference in cancer awareness because as Francis Bacon and Mark Shield once said, “knowledge is power and there is strength in numbers.”
American Cancer Society. (2014). Breast cancer. Retrieved from
Irma Corona is currently a doctoral student in Health Studies at Texas Woman's University.
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