Be honest, how many times have we heard our grandparents say “Oh she’s fine just give her some Robitussin”? This belief that all illnesses can be fixed with a simple cold or cough syrup is what creates generational recurrences of untreated illnesses. After becoming a nurse I saw just how fast a simple cold can go from no big deal to a deathly virus. It is time to shift the generational views and start to become proactive in our health. This includes regular check ups, vitamins, self examination, and living a healthier lifestyle.
According to the Cancer Facts and Figures for African Americans 2016-2018, African Americans have the “highest death rate and shortest survival rate of any other racial group in the US”. Did you also know that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer among Black women? (cancer.org). It is believed that this is so not due to biological issues but reflect social and economical issues. In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month I want to give you tips on how to perform a self breast exam.
In The Shower
Fingers tend to glide easier over your wet skin. Using the pads of your finger examine one breast at a time. Going in an up and down circular motion, start at the top of your breast near your armpit and work your way downwards, continuing the pattern up and down. Be certain to miss no areas, including the nipple, bra line, collarbone, armpit and bra line.
After The Shower
Stand with your arms at your side and observe your breast in the mirror and look for signs such as:
- being asymmetrical in shape or a change in the shape
- nipple retraction
- discharge from your nipple
Then place your arms on your hips and lean forward creating a “C” shape with your back. Observe the movement of both breasts and look for abnormalities in them. Bend at the waist and observe the movement of both again.
Place a towel under your shoulder and raise your arm over your head (one at a time). Repeating your line and circular motion of touch, again feel for any unusual lumps or masses under the surface of your skin.
This self exam should be performed once a month. Performing this allows you to be aware of your baseline or normal and have the ability to spot abnormalities sooner. Remember to report any differences to your physician. Starting at age twenty, clinical breast exams (ones performed by a physician) should be completed every 1-3 years and once every year after age 40.
It is up to us to ensure the next generations understand the importance of preventative care instead of reactive care.