In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re busting some breast cancer myths and educating ourselves on women’s health.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in a woman’s breast tissue. According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, breast cancer occurs “when cells in the breast divide and grow without their normal control”. While the majority of breast cancer cases begin in the milk ducts, it can originate in the lobules and other breast tissue as well.
What are the biggest risk factors for breast cancer?
There are several established and probable factors that increase breast cancer risk (i.e. factors that have been linked to breast cancer through medical research and evidence). Some of these include older age, high breast density, a history of breast cancer in one’s family, the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, weight gain, and current or recent use of birth control pills.
Can bras cause breast cancer?
Absolutely not. (And we’re not just saying that because we like bras.)
While the myth persists that wearing underwire bras can cause breast cancer by blocking the drainage of lymph fluid from the bottom of the breast, there is no evidence whatsoever that this is true. In fact, there is also absolutely no evidence that wearing any type of bra — padded, silicone, tightly-fitted, etc. — will cause breast cancer, or even put one at risk. (SEE 3). So feel free to keep supporting your gals!
How do I check myself from breast cancer?
To perform a breast self-exam, the National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends the following three-step process:
Physically check your breast for lumps, thinkenings, hardened knots, or irregularities by lightly pressing the pads of your middle three fingers on your breast and armpit area. Repeat the process, this time using moderate and then firm pressure. Be sure to check both breasts.
Next, stand in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides, and check your breasts visually for changes in contour, swelling, dimpling of the skin, or changes of the nipple. Raise your arms above your head, and check again.
Finally, lie down on the ground and place a pillow under one shoulder, with that arm above your head. Check your breast for lumps and the surrounding area with the pads of your fingertips. Repeat with the other breast.
For visuals and more information on self exams, click here.
What do breast cancer lumps feel like?
Not all breast cancer lumps will feel the same. If you have naturally dense breast tissue, it can be hard to even notice something out of the ordinary at all. In general, you should be on the lookout for irregular masses — growths that are not part of the firmer breast mass — that are hard, immobile, painless and have irregular edges. That being said, do not discount a lump if it is rounded, soft, or tender to the touch, as breast cancer growths can come in a variety of forms. If you detect an abnormal mass, the safest course of action is always to consult your doctor as soon as possible.
What bra should I buy for a breast cancer patient?
If you know someone who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer who would like a bra, you will definitely want to get their input on sizing and fit preferences before going out to buy one. In general, we recommend bras that have wide straps, plenty of support, and comfortable fabric.
For survivors who have had a mastectomy, there are plenty of mastectomy bra options available both in larger stores like Kohls and Amazon, and smaller boutiques. But unless you are absolutely sure of their size and brand preference, it is always best for a survivor to be fitted by a professional mastectomy bra fitter to find their new perfect fit.
How can I support breast cancer research?
There are a variety of ways to support the fight for a cure! You can donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization committed to funding breast cancer research, or to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. You can also continue to educate yourself and others on breast cancer and its risk factors, symptoms, and treatments, and continue to raise awareness even after October has ended.
But above all, keep reaching out and supporting those who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, those currently fighting it, and those women and men who have survived it. While you cannot cure them, just being available, attentive, and willing to listen or help however you can makes all the difference.