October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
No matter your role, if you work with adult women in the healthcare industry, it is important to discuss breast cancer with your patients or clients. Nurses are especially well positioned to talk to women about this important issue, since caring for a patient’s overall health is part of the job.
Monthly Breast Self-Exams
Do your patients know how to perform self-exams on their breasts? Though studies have questioned the necessity of breast self-exams due to the low rate of discovery in this manner, there is anecdotal evidence that self-checks can aid in early detection. Myself, I know a woman who discovered a lump in her own breast during a self-exam, and she has been a breast care survivor for over 15 years. So even though it is unlikely that a woman will discover breast cancer before her doctor can, isn’t even one woman’s life saved worth it? Self-exams have no cost to the patient and are easy to do, so I would encourage female patients to take their health into their own hands.
Annual Clinical Breast Exams and Mammograms
If you work in a primary care or OB/GYN practice, you know how often your patients are coming in for their clinical exams. It may be a good idea to send mailers to the patients in your practice during October to remind them of the importance of coming in for their annual exams, which will include checking for breast cancer. If you work outside one of these offices, posters and other educations materials can help remind your female patients to see their physicians, stressing the fact that early detection is what helps save lives.
It may be important to stress that, while mammograms are unpleasant, they are really the best tool we have right now for detecting breast cancer. Too many women avoid mammograms due to discomfort and embarrassment, so they need to be reminded that the discomfort is only temporary, and it could end up being the difference between going into remission or listening to the doctor talk about life expectancy.
Are Women Aware?
With everything going pink for the month of October, it’s hard to think that anyone could possibly not be aware of breast cancer. But simple awareness of this disease’s existence is quite different from awareness of how important early detection can be. How do you educate your patients about breast cancer?