For most women, hearing the words “Breast” and “Cancer” in the same sentence is scary. It is reported that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in the United States. Early detection though could mean survival.
We have a problem, though. Many women are afraid to check their breasts because they are shook. They are so full of fear, they don’t even realize that most lumps that may be found are not cancerous. Did you hear me? If you find a lump, most likely, it’s not cancer. Some “lumps” could be cysts, which are solid masses that are benign and non cancerous.
One of the best things you can do for yourself as a women is to check your breast on a monthly basis. Do it around ten days after your menstrual cycle starts. If you are afraid to do it, have your man do it and if you don’t have a partner to do it for you, go to a woman that you trust that can show you how to do it or who can do it for you. Also, be sure to make your annual Midwifery or Gynecological wellness visits and have your breast checked by your provider. Often, women in urban communities are known for helping women with their reproductive health, who may offer this service. No matter who feels you up, just go get felt up by somebody or do it yourself. It could be life saving. It may help to do your breast self exam (BSE) in the shower because your hands will be soapy and you can feel easily for lumps and changes. You can also do it lying down. If you want, use lotion to help you make the area smoother.
I encourage all women to get to know what their breast look and feel like so you can tell if something were to begin to look strange.
What Am I Looking For?
– Any area that looks different than the rest of your breasts. It may look puckered, dimpled inflamed or even scaly.
– A mass, thickening or lump that could be as small as a pea or larger. It may have smooth or rugged edges. It may be movable or not.
– Any redness, pain or swelling that is not a result of breastfeeding.
– Any fluid being discharged from the nipples that is not breast milk or colostrum. Sometimes milk ducts can get clogged and can cause an infection called mastitis. Don’t get confused by this. Did I mention that breastfeeding reduces your risk of getting breast cancer?
How do I do it?
Lay on your back and place a pillow under you on the side of the breast that you are examining. Picture your breast being the face of a clock. 12 o’clock would be the top, 6 o’clock would be the bottom. Start far out by your neck bone at 12 o’clock and try to make circular motions to 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, then all the way around until you get back to 12 o’clock. Once you make your way around the breast, move your fingers in an inch towards your nipple and work your way around again. Keep that up until you have completed every area of your breast. Feel under your nipple as well. Keep your fingers flat. Use two or three fingers to do this easily. Be sure that you are checking the whole area of your breast, even under your breasts and under your arm in your armpit area and even up into your collarbone. After that, stand in front of a mirror or even sit if you have to. Put your hands in different poses and look for anything unusual. Put them above your head and on your hips, etc. Also, take a second to bend forward slightly. Look for any changes in the shape of your breast that is not normal.
If you do find something, get it checked out. You may be sent for a mammogram and ultrasound. Don’t believe the hype. Mammograms may be a little uncomfortable, but they don’t hurt.
Did you know that Caucasian women get breast cancer more than Black women but we die more? Why do you think that is? Did you know that men can get breast cancer too? Did you know that the risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older but can happen at a young age? Did you know that your genes increase your risk and can be inherited from either parent?
Simply put, You best protect your breast, you best protect your life.
This article is written in memory of a good sister of mine named Mecca Wise and all of the beautiful women who have lost their lives to breast cancer. May their names, legacies and lessons live on.
SciHonor Devotion, CD, CPD, CCCE, CMA, CWSP is a contributing writer
to the Hood Health Handbook set. She is a Labor Doula, Postpartum
Doula, Childbirth Educator, Homebirth Midwife Assistant and Womb Sauna
Practitioner who serves women and girls in her community through
workshop, ceremony and rites of passage. She is also Co-Owner of
Queen’s Quisine: Vegetarian and Vegan Catering Company and can be
contacted at www.facebook.com/EarthDoulas / [email protected] /