If you're reading this, you probably know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. When I was in middle school, one of my favorite Aunts died of breast cancer after battling the disease for years. At that time, breast cancer was starting to get more attention, but there were still so many unknowns, especially in the African-American community. But with more cases, more research and more organizations focusing on bringing awareness to the disease, women have gained a sense of power to combat the disease and the survival rate is increasingly on the rise.
What's been even more interesting is the way men have stepped forward to become advocates for the women in their lives affected by breast cancer. The National Football League (NFL) dawns pink for the month of October and I've seen a countless number of men participating in breast cancer races to raise funds for research and celebrate breast cancer survivors.
But I have to admit, even with the enormous amount of information available about breast cancer, the emphasis on early detection and the yearly serious talks with my GYN, I'm ashamed to say that I've never once done a self-exam. Half of it is because I believe it's not something I should REALLY worry about right now. The other half is because I simply forget.
While I'm only 27, making it a habit now, can only increase the chances of early detection in the future. The truth is this:
Breast cancer statistics suggest that beginning in their 20s, into their 50s, black women are twice as likely to die of breast cancer as white women who have breast cancer.
When breast cancer is caught in its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate for women ages 20-39 is close to 90%
While breast cancer incidence in African-American women is lower than in Caucasian women, breast cancer mortality is 39 percent higher for African-American women.
In 2011, an estimated 26,840 new cases of breast cancer and 6,040 deaths are expected to occur among African-American women.
A study from Georgetown University finds black women who develop breast cancer are more likely than white women to suffer a second cancer in the other breast. Those who are diagnosed under the age of 45 are more likely to get a primary breast cancer of a more aggressive form.
Undoubtedly, one of the primary reasons breast cancer deaths has declined is because of early detection. If I'm only getting checked once a year by my GYN, how is early detection going to work to my advantage if I were to be diagnosed with breast cancer? Self-exams are imperative.
Now, the hard part. How am I supposed to remember? Lucky for me, the Canadian charity, Rethink Breast Cancer, is releasing it's "Your Man Reminder". The free iPhone and Andriod app allows you to choose from six "dream men" to schedule alerts to perform self exams delivered by the man of your choice. He'll also help guide you through it. The app is set to be released this month.
But I'm all for practicality. I say, enlist your boyfriend, husband or significant other to learn what to look for. There have been several testimonials in which women say that their significant other was the first to notice abnormal lumps.
Whether you do it yourself or ask for some help, self-exams are the easiest way to detect breast cancer in it's earliest stage. Be sure to talk with your doctor about proper techniques, what you should look for and when you should contact them.