By: Dr. Michael Meshad
Just a few decades ago, little was known about breast cancer. It was a rarely talked about disease. Today, breast cancer is in the news, almost daily, reporting on new drug therapies and the latest treatment techniques. Thanks to the dedication of researchers, pharmacologists, oncologists and other healthcare providers, we have made momentous progress in terms of what we know about breast cancer, its treatment and most importantly its prevention.
During the month of October, every town across our nation is painted pink. Professional football players wear pink sweatbands and pink cleats, local businesses display pink ribbons in their storefronts and millions of women gather together in their pink tutus to walk a 5K. This pink movement has been the single most effective cancer awareness campaign to date.
Why is this important? Because in recent years death rates from breast cancer have declined significantly. This movement has encouraged women to become more educated about the disease and more proactive in seeking their screenings. So I say, keep your paintbrushes out and keep spreading the word.
Now, let’s talk more about these screenings. A clinical breast exam is recommended every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year for women 40 and older. Yearly mammograms should also start at age 40. Women with a family history, genetic tendency, or past breast cancer should speak with their healthcare provider about starting mammography screenings earlier, having additional tests, or having more frequent exams.
Self-exams are also an integral part of the screening process. It’s imperative that women know how their breasts feel normally, making it easier to identify when something has changed. Self-breast exams should be performed routinely while lying down while looking in a mirror and while standing in the shower (put a few soap suds on your hand to help). Move your fingers in circular patterns, up and down patterns, and in diagonal lines on both breasts. Don’t forget to check in your underarms too!
Besides lumps, breast cancer can also present as redness, dimpling, shape changes, and texture differences. Early detection is key to beating this disease, so please report worrisome changes to your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
We are all in this fight together- no, it’s not a cliché, it’s the truth. Prevention and early detection combined with advancements in research mean that we are finding better tools, better ways to equip ourselves against this disease and are inching closer and closer to finding a cure.
At Southern Cancer Center, we are doing our part. We play an active and leading role in clinical research studies and can give patients access to new treatments that are otherwise not yet generally available. Through partnerships with The US Oncology Network, Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, and various pharmaceutical companies, we continue to advance what is known about breast cancer and aid in the development of some of the newest and most promising breast cancer therapies.
So I’ll say it again- paint the town pink and spread the word. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.