Renaming October: Breast Health Education Month

Bright Pink is a national non-profit focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. The organization's mission is to save women's lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering them to live proactively at a young age.

Each October, millions join together in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, bringing attention to the leading cancer diagnosis in women. But often, I find myself asking, is the right message being taken away? Does the same woman who is purchasing pink products know that her breast tissue goes all the way up to her collarbone? Has the runner who recently fundraised and completed a charity 5K taken the time to gather her family's cancer history, on both her mother and father's side, and shared it with her doctor?

While fundraising and participating in the myriad of National Breast Cancer Month activities is important, even more so is using a moment like this to ensure that young women are doing all they can to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer or detect the disease at an early, non life-threatening stage. Here are four things every woman can do to brighten up on the breast health basics and start living proactively today:

  • Be Breast Self-Aware - Know the symptoms including a hard immobile lump, swelling, soreness, rash, warmth, redness, darkening, change in size or shape of either breast, dimpling or prickling of the skin, nipple that becomes flat or inverted, nipple discharge, a pain in one spot, persistent itching, or bumps that resemble bug bites. Know your normal, monitor changes over time. Remember to be breast self aware by opting in to Bright Pink's Breast Health Reminders, text messages by texting PINK to 59227.
  • Schedule Your Annual Well Woman Visit - Every woman should visit a gynecologist or qualified medical practitioner once a year, even when she is perfectly healthy for an annual exam, which is covered under the Affordable Care Act. The doctor should perform a clinical breast exam, where he/she will feel your breasts for a couple minutes. Additionally, your doctor will partner with you to determine when you need to start mammograms and/or screenings.
  • Reduce Your Risk - Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing fat intake, limiting alcohol intake, breastfeeding, and quitting smoking are all risk-reducing behaviors you can begin implementing today.
  • Know your Family History & Assess Your Risk - Find out who had cancer at what age. Collect your family's health history from both your mother and father's sides. Use the information to complete a personalized risk assessment.

We're asking all women to commit to being intentional about their health; to understand their risk, to visit their doctors annually, and to practice breast and ovarian self-awareness and risk-reducing behaviors. Keep this top of mind not only this October, but 365 days a year. You owe it to yourself, the women who have come before us, and the generations to come.