A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. She is in her early 30's. Hearing her news was difficult, to say the least, and watching her go through the surgery and treatments has been heart wrenching despite her inherent integrity and optimistic outlook. I know it sounds cliche, but she is a superhero. She is enduring the miserable treatments, side effects, and emotional adjustments with grace, strength, humor, and honesty. I have always admired this friend, my admiration for her continues to grow with step of this experience.
There has recently been some debate about self-breast exams and whether or not they are cause for unneeded stress or even helpful. I am, personally, all for knowing and being aware of one's body as much as possible. I have found that the more in-tune I am with my body, the better I am able to take care of myself physically and emotionally. It has been challenging to pay attention to my body since I had children. With my friend's breast cancer diagnosis, I am reminded that it is time to reconnect. Self-breast exams, fertility awareness, yoga, massage, meditation, and just being mindful are some ways to learn more about your body and become more aware of your own physical and emotional rhythms.
My friend was not doing regular self-breast exams. In fact, she had just had a clinical breast exam at her last annual appointment six months before she discovered the lump. She found the lump because she was aware of her body and noticed something.
Here is a reminder to be aware, not just about breast cancer, but also of your own body. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure recommends that you, "Know how your breasts look and feel and report changes to your health care provider right away". For tips on how to be breast self-aware, look for the Breast Self-Awareness (BSA) Interactive Tool on the left side bar under "interactive tools".
What about nursing mamas? How do you do a BSE when you are lactating? Breastfeeding 123 has a post with recommendations to wait until seven days after your menstrual period has ended, if you are having menstrual cycles, and doing the exam after nursing when your breasts are less full of milk.