There’s been an ongoing conversation happening in the breast cancer community for a while. A conversation about whether or not checking yourself helps detect a cancer diagnosis or is even necessary for your own health. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force pretty much recommended "against teaching breast self-examination (BSE)." Crazy, right? Here at Keep A Breast, we strongly believe that knowing your body and your "normal" is essential to your health. It's crucial to understand and be aware when something is wrong, even as a teen or young adult.
Did you know doctors don’t recommend mammograms until age 40? But even at age 40, the recommendation is not a must. A recent study also claims that mammograms don't work. But what does a young woman concerned about her body do in this situation? Unfortunately women under 40 are still not recommended to basically do anything. First of all, that's not the "breast" answer. To us, (and many others) that's just way too late to start thinking about your breast health. Way, way too late to check your boobies. So how does a young woman become aware of any changes in her breasts without actually checking them? She doesn't. That's why we strongly believe that doing a self-check is key.
“THE BREAST SELF-CHECK IS A VITALLY IMPORTANT SKILL THAT ALL WOMEN, ESPECIALLY YOUNG WOMEN, SHOULD MASTER. THERE IS NO CONTROVERSY ABOUT THE HIGH PERCENTAGE OF BREAST CANCERS BEING FOUND BY WOMEN THEMSELVES, AND AS THE RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT DECREASING MAMMOGRAM SCREENING CONTINUES TO POUR IN, THE IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN KNOWING WHEN A LUMP IS NEW WILL TAKE ON EVER GREATER IMPORTANCE, LEADING TO MANY MORE LIVES BEING SAVED.” - JOEL M. EVANS, M.D.
We want to make sure that young people understand and are educated that breast cancer can happen to anyone, not just your mom or grandmother. Unfortunately, in my life, breast cancer in women under 40 is a reality. In the U.S., about 232,570 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and 40% of those diagnosis are detected by women feeling their own lumps. That means 93,028 will have found a lump or something abnormal with their breast. But how many of these self-diagnosed are young women?
In 2013, the American Cancer Society projected that there would be 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer and of those new cases it is estimated that 10, 980 will be under the age of 40. That's less than 5% and is still considered very rare, however it doesn't mean it isn't happening. The real question is, of these estimated 10,980 breast cancer diagnoses how many actually found their own lump when other methods were not strongly recommended? To me, one young person is one too many to not educate everyone on the importance of checking yourself.
Take Lauren and Hayley, for example, they were 26 and 28 when they found their own lumps and were able to get the treatments that saved their lives. Evidence is proving over and over that young adults face a more aggressive cancer and have lower survival rates against what seems to be a very different cancer than is experienced by older women. The better news is that if the cancer is detected early, in the localized stage, the five year survival rate is 98%. If Lauren and Hayley had waited until they were over 40 to know their body, they may have missed their lumps and it could have been too late. Checking themselves and being aware of their "normal" ultimately saved their lives.
Starting a breast health routine in your teens is the beginning of a positive relationship with your breasts. A relationship that stems from self-care and self-love, not from a place of fear. We never say to “check for cancer”, we always say “love your boobies!” This is why we are asking people this October to take the #CHECKYOURSELFIE pledge. Sharing the stories of women who have found their own lumps and are alive because of it is one of the ways we are demistyfing the self-check. There is no denying their discoveries and that early detection made it possible for them to be here today.
This October, pledge to be your own health advocate and check yourself once a month. Show your commitment to loving your boobies and protecting them for life by posting a #CHECKYOURSELFIE and sharing the message with your friends and family. Don't forget to download our Check Yourself! App to schedule a reminder for your monthly self-check & follow these 5 tips to doing a thorough breast self-check.