Health & Fitness

Breast cancer awareness: How to do at-home self breast exams

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October is breast cancer awareness month, and it’s the time where we are able to remember those who fought and died from the disease, celebrate the survivors and support the warriors who are still battling. Furthermore, we’re able to learn how we can reduce our breast cancer risks through healthy choices and early detection.

Photo credit: National Breast Cancer Foundation

Photo credit: National Breast Cancer Foundation

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and the disease is the second leading cause of death for women. Each year, more than 246,000 are diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die from the disease.

When it comes to black women, we have lower incidences of breast cancer, but we’re more likely develop aggressive forms of the disease and according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, our mortality rates are 39 percent higher than our white counterparts.

So, what can we do help ourselves and our sisters? Let’s get serious about preventative care!

In the past, black women were less likely to get annual mammograms due to lack of access to good health care, lack of a usual health care provider, lack of awareness or simply because we’re busy taking care of others in our lives. The good news is that have we now have similar rates of mammogram use as our white counterparts (who have the highest use rates).

Medical wisdom suggests that women start getting yearly mammograms at the age of 40, but what about if you’re younger? This is where breast self-exams come in handy for women of all ages!

Although the Susan G. Komen Foundation says their current research on monthly breast self-exams doesn’t show increased survival rates, it is helpful in understanding your body and recognizing if something has gone awry.

Here’s how to do an exam!

Remember, a breast self-exam is only the first step. If you notice lumps, dimpling, swelling or discharge, then schedule an appointment with your health care provider to talk about your next steps.

In addition to breast self-exams, take other measures to improve your overall health such as exercise, healthy eating and developing healthy physical and mental health habits. And, make sure you educate and encourage your grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters and girlfriends to do the same.

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