The month of October is where you start seeing leaves changing and pumpkins popping up at every market. This time of year is my favorite: I love being able to see all the adorable costumes kids will be wearing and carving pumpkins with my family. It is also the start of the holiday season and where my favorite memories are made.
However, since I have started as an oncology nurse two years ago, I have seen how quick the holidays can change for patient’s and their families.
I’ve nurtured my fair share of breast cancer patients during each and every stage. I’ve been the face they remember, telling them that their surgery is over and that I must check the dressings where their breasts once were. I’ve been the nurse, providing comfort, as a woman discovered the breast cancer she survived became ovarian cancer.
I’ve been the nurse caring for an individual who could no longer walk due to the tumor that metastasized to her spinal cord. Most importantly, I was there to witness our team catch her breast cancer early enough so that she would a lifetime together with her husband.
One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime (National Cancer Institute). Do not be the person who believes no harm can come to themselves. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms and seek medical treatment. Typically breast cancer is shown as an abnormality on a mammogram before it can be felt.
The American Cancer Society recommends mammogram screening annually for women after 40. Women ages 20-39 should have their health care provider perform a clinical breast exam every 3 years. When a lump can be felt, an individual may present with nipple discharge, skin irritation, breast tenderness, and sometimes pain.
So this October, remember to wear a little pink and spread information on the disease that affects not only women but also men. Protect yourself by living a healthy lifestyle and following recommendations for screening and preventions.