For more than 30 years, October has been observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month—a month dedicated to increasing awareness of the disease and raising funds to research its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.
We spoke with Stefani Lim, MSN, FNP-BC, a Kansas City native and Family Nurse Practitioner at Spira Care Shawnee, on the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what you need to know about this disease.
Why Breast Cancer Awareness Month Matters
BreastCancer.org estimates that in the United States this year there will be 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women and 2,550 new cases diagnosed in men. About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12.4 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. If a woman has a family history of the BRCA gene, the gene that identifies breast cancer susceptibility, her risk for breast cancer increases from 45 percent to 65 percent by age 70.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as a reminder for both women and men to know their facts.
Stefani Lim said, “Knowledge is power! As healthcare professionals, we have a book of knowledge about health that could really impact the lives of others if we are proactive about screening and education.”
“During Breast Cancer Awareness Month it’s important to honor those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as those who are survivors, by reminding all women about early detection, screening and education,” Lim said. “This month at Spira Care we are wearing our pink ribbons in support of this cause.”
Thanks in part to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women have become aware of the disease and the importance of early screening and detection—but room remains for greater action. More than 90 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stages survive their disease for at least five years, compared to around 22 percent for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
According to Lim, a good first step is having healthcare providers educate more women on self-breast examinations. Giving women knowledge on what signs and symptoms to look for is especially important for early detection.
“Early detection starts with monthly self-breast examination. Look for a change in the feeling or appearance of your breasts. Breast cancer does not always present as a large, abnormal lump in the breast. Other symptoms may include a change in the texture of the skin on your breast, like an orange peel, unusual enlargement or shrinkage of one breast, inversion of the nipple or discharge. If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, it is best to visit your doctor for a breast examination.”
Many women may put off these checkups out of fear, but Lim urges women to bravely take power of their personal health, whatever the result may be.
“I have seen quite a few women who defer mammograms year after year simply due to fear that they might receive abnormal results, especially if breast cancer runs in the family. This is where it becomes the duty of the healthcare providers to educate women about the importance of early detection and treatment and how it can affect the outcome of the disease process.”
Here are some topline early detection tips:
- Know how your breasts feel normally: You are your own first line of defense.
- Know your family history: Knowledge is power.
- Ask your doctor about annual well woman visits: They are here to help.
“At Spira Care, we as a team are extremely proactive about breast cancer screening and making sure that each member is up to date with scheduling their mammograms. We also perform clinical breast examinations for each well woman visit.”
“Whenever I perform a clinical breast exam, I always like to educate the member about how to do a self-breast exam at home and explain the difference between normal and abnormal breast tissue. I also find NationalBreastCancer.org to be an excellent resource for education on breast cancer.”
Getting started is sometimes the hardest part, but when it comes to something as important as your health, there’s no better time than the present to schedule your next well woman visit.