Clutchettes – many of you know that this month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As women and as women of color we must make sure we are informed on the many conditions and medical issues facing us. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Black women. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death among Black women, exceeded only by lung cancer. This month we will feature a host of resources and articles to make sure you are educated and informed on this very important issue.
Did you know?
In 2009, an estimated 19,540 new cases of breast cancer and 6,020 deaths are expected to occur among African American women . Although breast cancer incidence is lower among African American women, they have a 37 percent higher breast cancer death rate than Caucasian women .
Breast self-exam (BSE) is a tool that may help you become familiar with the way your breasts normally look and feel. BSE may help you find tumors in the time between your yearly mammogram and/or clinical breast exam. It may also help you see or feel changes in your breasts that should be reported to your health care provider. If you notice any of the warning signs of breast cancer listed below, see your health care provider right away.
* Lump, hard knot or thickening
* Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
* Change in the size or shape of the breast
* Dimpling or puckering of the skin
* Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
* Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
* Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
* New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
How To Do a Breast Self Exam (BSE)
Time Required: 15 minutes a month
What You Need:
* A mirror which lets you see both breasts
* A pillow for your head and shoulders
1. Make a regular date for your BSE
If you are pre-menopausal: Set a regular time to examine your breasts a few days after your period ends, when hormone levels are relatively stable and breasts are less tender.
If you are already menopausal (have not had a period for a year or more): Pick a particular day of the month to do the exam, and then repeat your BSE on that day each month.
2. Visual Exam – Hands on Hips
In the privacy of your bathroom, strip to the waist and stand before a mirror. You will need to see both breasts at the same time. Stand with your hands on your hips and check the appearance of your breasts. Look at size, shape, and contour. Note changes, if any, in the skin color or texture. Look at the nipples and areolas, to see how healthy they look.
3. Visual Exam – Arms Over Your Head
Still standing in front of the mirror, raise your arms over your head and see if your breasts move in the same way, and note any differences. Look at size, shape, and drape, checking for symmetry. Pay attention to your nipples and areolas, to see if you have any dimples, bumps, or retraction (indentation). Look up toward your armpits and note if there is any swelling where your lymph nodes are (lower armpit area).
4. Manual Exam – Stand and Stroke
Raise your left arm overhead, and use your right-hand fingers to apply gentle pressure to the left breast. Stroke from the top to the bottom of the breast, moving across from the inside of the breast all the way into your armpit area. You can also use a circular motion, being sure to cover the entire breast area. Take note of any changes in texture, color, or size. Switch sides and repeat. This is best done in the shower, as wet skin will have the least resistance to the friction of your fingers.
5. Manual Exam – Check Your Nipples
Still facing the mirror, lower both arms. With the index and middle fingers of your right hand, gently squeeze the left nipple and pull forward. Does the nipple spring back into place? Does it pull back into the breast? Note whether or not any fluid leaks out. Reverse your hands and check the right nipple in the same way.
6. Manual Exam – Recline and Stroke
This is best done in your bedroom, where you can lie down. Place a pillow on the bed so that you can lie with both your head and shoulders on the pillow. Lie down and put your left hand behind your head. Use your right hand to stroke the breast and underarm, as you did in step 4. Take note of any changes in texture, color, or size. Switch sides and repeat.
Trouble signs that should not be ignored:
Be aware of possible problems in your breast or underarm area. If you notice any of the following signs, make an appointment with your health care provider right away.
• lumps, hard knot or thickening in any part of the breast
• swelling, warmth, redness or darkening that does not go away
• change in the size or shape of your breast
• dimpling or puckering of the skin of your breast
• itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
• pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
• nipple discharge that starts suddenly
• new pain in one spot that does not go away