As we near the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we've got an important message about a new campaign from our friends at the Avon Foundation. This post is written by Marc Hurlbert, Ph.D., executive director of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade.
You're constantly checking things: your baby's diapers and bottle temperature; your school-age kid's lunch box and report cards; your own checking account balance, emails, and social media accounts. But you also need to take time to #CheckYourself for breast health, since 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
#CheckYourself is a new breast health education tool created by the Avon Foundation and launched in partnership with Paula Abdul, who created a really cool dance video to remind you to #CheckYourself. Adbul's sister is a breast-cancer survivor and featured in the video; the sisters have a particularly moving moment at the end (the photo above captures it). The #CheckYourself program aims to cut through the confusion related to screening strategies and encourages women to take control of their own breast health with three simple steps: 1.) Know Your Risks. 2.) Know Your Body. 3.) Talk To Your Doctor.
Talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer, and remember that only 15 percent of cases run in families. Ask your doctor at what age you should start mammography screening and how often to get screened. #CheckYourself provides you with resources and support if you are one of the 1.6 million women each year that need a breast biopsy, or one of the 250,000 women or men diagnosed with breast cancer. (That's right; men can get breast cancer too, though it's rare.)
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women, with nearly 1.7 million new cases globally this year—and 232,670 new cases in the United States alone. Since 1992, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade has been working tirelessly to help prevent, treat, and ultimately eradicate this disease. We will continue to generate awareness and fuel important research to save more lives—such as our recent Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality Study, which found a black:white disparity in breast cancer mortality in 29 U.S. cities, or our partnership with the Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) Alliance, which just released a landmark report that finds MBC research is underfunded and identifies opportunities to close gaps for people living with metastatic breast cancer.
Many women ask if they should still do monthly breast self-exams (BSE). BSE are certainly one way to check yourself each month, starting in your 20s; some women feel comfortable with them because they involve a step-by-step approach to examining the way your breasts look and feel at regular intervals (such as monthly, after your period). Other women are more comfortable simply feeling their breasts in a less systematic approach, such as while showering or getting dressed or doing an occasional thorough exam. Sometimes women are so concerned about "doing it right" that they stress over the technique.
The American Cancer Society now recommends monthly breast self-exams as optional. Studies have not shown routine BSE to be more effective than finding a breast lump by chance. It's important to know what is normal for your breasts. The goal—with or without BSE—is to report any breast changes to a doctor or nurse right away.
Women of any age can get breast cancer, even young women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. The majority of breast cancer cases occur in women between 50 and 64 years—but 25% of cases occur in women younger than 50. As a parent with a busy life, just remember that in addition to all the things you must check on in your life, take time to #CheckYourself.
Photo courtesy of the Avon Foundation.