Make every month breast cancer awareness month!
When is the last time you checked your breasts for lumps or anomalies? Did you know this is the first line of defense in detecting breast cancer?
Self breast checks can be accomplished in mere moments and should be performed once a month. Breast checks should happen in the shower where the water helps fingertips glide over and around the breasts making detecting lumps, sore spots, and any other anomaly easy. At the first sign of any lump or sore spot on/in the breast or under the armpit, you should make an appointment with your gynecologist to get it checked out. Always better safe than sorry. It was a home self breast check that saved local news anchor Leslie Mouton’s life. The KSAT 12 anchor became the face of breast cancer here in San Antonio thirteen years ago when she was diagnosed with and receiving chemotherapy for her breast cancer.
At the Schertz Health and Wholeness Fair 2013, she shared her story. “I was in the shower doing my check when I felt something small and hard. I called my husband to come and check it out, and of course, he did, and he felt it, too.” Following that check, Mouton made an appointment with her doctor not thinking it was anything to worry about because she didn’t have any history of breast cancer in her family. The shock of discovering, after a biopsy, that it was, indeed, breast cancer, startled her. “Ninety-five percent of diagnosed cancers are NEW cancers” she states.
Like other chemotherapy patients, Mouton’s hair began to fall out. Instead of crying over the loss, she celebrated it with a party by inviting over friends and family, and her hair stylist who ceremoniously shaved off the hair, but not before family and friends got to save a “memory” lock. Strands of hair were braided and tied with ribbon and each braid was cut off and given to her loved ones to commemorate the moment. Once her hair was completely shaved, Mouton’s daughter, who was two at the time, said “Yay, mommy, can we do it again?” In support of his wife, Mouton’s husband kept his head shaved for the duration of her chemotherapy.
While she did wear her $800 wig for a time, Leslie Mouton made the courageous decision to go on air without her wig and represent women with breast cancer everywhere. Doing so meant bringing awareness to breast cancer and just putting a familiar face on it. This led to interviews on Good Morning America and Oprah. No longer was the disease of breast cancer lurking in the dark because one of San Antonio’s own was bravely fighting it and putting it boldly out into the public from the platform of her news anchor desk. "I saw it as an opportunity to do some good."
The message Mouton conveys is to know your body and to not ignore changes that can be early symptoms of cancer (of any kind). “Do your home breast checks!”
Indeed, make it an event by inviting your spouse/partner to help out. Cancer isn’t dependent upon heredity. Cancer also does not discriminate. Men can develop breast cancer, too.
Key signs often ignored by women (and men) that can indicate breast cancer:
Nipple changes – This when the nipple begins to appear flattened, inverted, or turned sideways.
Red, sore, or swollen breasts – If breasts appear either red or purplish, feel hot or swollen, this could be a sign of what is called “inflammatory” breast cancer.
Breast cancer is no joke. Cancer of any kind is no joke, a fact that has made itself known to my family only this past week after my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. He just didn’t want to do a preventative colonoscopy years back, and had one on Monday that indicated he has waited too long and now must go through both chemotherapy/radiation and surgery.
Mammograms are recommended as a preventative check for women beginning at age 40, but until then, home self-breast checks are the first line of defense in detecting breast cancer early. And guess what? Breast cancer caught in its first stage is curable! If left unattended, it’s only treatable. Don’t let yourself fall into the second category.
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M. Gwynn has authored two books, Harvest and The Cat Who Wanted to be a Reindeer on Amazon.com .
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