This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Bring Your Brave campaign for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it holds a lot of meaning before me because I lost my grandmother to breast cancer, and my mother is a breast cancer survivor. I also had a breast cancer scare when I was in my 20s. Knowing that cancer has a hereditary component, I have been very proactive with preventative health testing and awareness. In October, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is asking women to share their stories and raise awareness of cancer risks and preventions for young women.
When I was in my 20s, I lived in Philadelphia. I was watching the 11:00 news one night, and they did a story that showed how to perform a self-breast exam. I had never done an exam, so I did one, and I found a lump. I was so scared when it happened, and it didn’t help that I was hundreds of miles away from my friends and family. I felt very isolated. I went to my doctor at the time, who was male, but I asked to see the female doctor, who was very nice. She told me that it was most likely nothing to worry about, but that it was good that I had come in. She could tell that I was very upset, so she set up tests and a meeting with a surgeon. I was very anxious, and couldn’t wait to find out what the surgeon had to say. When I did meet with her, she told me that the lump was non-cancerous (thankfully) but that they didn’t know what it was. I wanted it removed, regardless, and she agreed. I had it removed, and have never had any trouble since.
Because of this scare, and because of my family history, I am a staunch supporter of breast cancer education, testing, and awareness. Breast cancer is a scary disease, but it is treatable, especially if it is caught early. Unfortunately, many women under 45 do not realize that they are not immune to breast cancer, and they don’t watch for the signs. The CDC is launching a new campaign – Bring Your Brave – to educate young women about breast cancer risks and realities. Bring Your Brave is challenging young women to explore the history of breast cancer in their families, identify their personal risk factors, initiate preventive measures, and learn how to discuss their health with medical providers.
It can be scary and difficult to do these things; no one wants to think about breast cancer at any age, but especially as a young woman just starting out. Even so, it is vital that breast cancer in young women is diagnosed early for the best chance of survival. When young women are diagnosed, it is more likely that the breast cancer is hereditary, and will be diagnosed at a later stage and be more aggressive. Women should also work with their health care provider to determine the best time to begin mammograms; the age depends on personal health history and family health history, so may vary for some women.
It is also important for women to know their risk factors, including family history, and personal medical history. There are many risk factors that cannot be controlled, such as heredity, which makes it even more important that women who have a lot of risk factors should be proactive with their health. The CDC encourages women to do three main things:
1. Know how your breasts normally look and feel, and talk to your doctor if you notice anything unusual
2. Talk to relatives about your family history of breast or ovarian cancer. The CDC provides a worksheet to guide your conversation
3. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors – there are tests that can determine your risk of breast cancer and allow you to be proactive with your health
These steps may seem scary, but they are nowhere as scary as the reality of breast cancer. I know how frightened I was when I was in my 20s and had a lump, but I was so relieved when I went to the doctor and found out that it was nothing. Early detection of breast cancer is the key, and we are urging all women, especially young women who might feel that they are not at risk, to be brave and become educated. On October 27th, you can share your own story on social media using the hashtag #BraveBecause – share your story as well as read other women’s stories and help other women to be brave.