Do you remember back in 4th or 5th grade when the girls had a “special assembly” to learn the ins and outs of female hygiene and about not being embarrassed to wear a bra? Or maybe you remember your high school health class talking about the reproductive system? Maybe you didn’t get these talks until you went to your first gynecologist appointment. I definitely remember all these uncomfortable talks with teachers, school nurses, and doctors who gave me the basic information and moved on. What I find crazy is not once in those talks, did anyone mention how to give a self-breast exam! I ended up hearing about it in college when someone left a door hang tag (think about the do not disturb signs at hotels) on my dorm room door. I looked at it and was shocked at the thought that someone would put this on my door (talk about naive and a prude at 18), but I throw it on my desk and went about my business. When I got back to my dorm, I looked at the hang tag and decided I would add this to my shower routine monthly. Had someone not put that tag on my door, I probably still wouldn’t know about self-breast examinations.
I am a HUGE advocate for being proactive with your personal healthcare and with October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, I felt that this was an important topic to discuss. This year alone, there have been 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer, which is a crazy to me! There are so many different things that we, as women, can do to be proactive with our health, especially our breast health and this week I’m going to give you some information that will be super helpful to you and your loved ones.
- Monthly Self Breast Exams are super easy to do, but can definitely be forgotten with the daily ins and outs of life (I know I’ve missed a couple here and there). This monthly check is best done either lying down on a bed, in the shower, or standing in front of the mirror. By moving your flat part of you finger tips in a circular motion around the breast, you’ll be checking for any unusual lumps or pains. If you feel anything weird, call your doctor ASAP! You definitely do not want to wait on something like this even if it’s something small. Check out this handy printable pdf that will give you more information on how to perform the exam and a helpful reminder box for each month!
- Going to the your Gynecologist is important! My high school health teacher told me a story that his mother was too busy raising her family to go to the gynecologist and felt uncomfortable going to a male doctor in the 70s. She ended up having Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer when she did finally go to the doctor for her first check up. That story has stuck with me all this time because one appointment could have changed everything for her. I definitely recommend that you find a doctor that you are comfortable and feel at ease with. I know how intimidating and scary it is to go to the gynecologist (it still get anxious going), but getting your breast checked, a pap smear, and STD test are all proactive measures that you shouldn’t miss, especially now that some of the testing isn’t need annually. If you’re between the ages of 21-30, you’ll need to go every 3 years to get a pap smear; if you’re over 30, you can go every 5 years for the pap and HPV testing. Clearly, you know your body better than anyone else, so if you feel, see, or smell something off or weird definitely get checked!
- Over 40? Be sure to get a mammogram! This preventative breast x-ray can be lifesaving and is a key for detecting breast cancer. Even though some doctors say it isn’t necessary for women younger than 40 to receive mammograms on an annual basis, it’s still good to know that this is an important part of being proactive in your health. If you’re just around the corner from 40 or you have a decade+ to get there, keep it in mind when you’re going to exams with your gynecologist.
- Know your family history! Did you grandmother and aunt have breast cancer? Did you sister have a scare with ovarian cancer? By knowing this kind of history, doctors can be able to help you with testing and exams. And be honest when they ask those embarrassing questions about sexual history, your flow, or breast health; this is their way of investigating your health history! I think the best example of the importance of your family history, is the cancer scare that Angelina Jolie had last year, which led to her opting to get a double mastectomy and full reconstructive surgery.
- Stay away from Web M.D.!!!!! Yes, I have to stay this because I have fallen into the nasty habit of self-diagnosing myself into have a horrible disease that in reality is a common cold. Use the website for exactly what it is… a resource tool and not to be the end all, be all of what you might have. Trust me on this, Curvy Girls!
- Lastly, know your body! I know I have said this a few times throughout this post, but it is really important. Knowing if your breast are tender from PMS symptoms or something is good to be aware of. Clearly, if it happens one time randomly, I wouldn’t make an emergency appointment with your doctor or head to the ER, but if it’s a prolonged tenderness for multiple days and your nowhere near to starting your period, maybe call to talk to the nurse, PA, gynecologist/doctor see if you should come in for an appointment.
It was a little heavy today, but I care for all of you wonderful Curvy Girls! So, at minimum, be sure to work in a monthly self breast exam into your routine… and if your excuse is that you’ll forget, then add it to your calendar (don’t forget to to set the alarm) or better yet, get an app that will help to remind you to do it! If you’re like a crazy app lady like myself, check out the Early Detection Plan App website. Hopefully this information is a starting point to take care of yourself and go to the professional (I’m an Event Planner, remember) if something is going on.
If you have a topic that you want me to post about, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to my list of topics! Until next time, Curvy Girls!