Betty Ford, first lady to the 38th president of the United States, was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 1974. The first lady knew that honesty and full disclosure were essential to the Ford administration in the aftermath of former President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. In this context she chose to take action (National First Ladies Library).
By disclosing her condition publicly within two days of having a mastectomy, Betty Ford began the breast cancer conversation in the United States and inspired thousands to get checked for the disease. With Betty Ford and many other brave survivors’ activism, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was established in 1985 as a commemorative period to raise awareness for the disease (Breast Cancer Consortium).
While the rate of breast cancer deaths in the United States has slowly declined since 1990, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime; an estimated 2,740 men will be diagnosed this year alone (National Breast Cancer Foundation).
To ensure you are cancer free and in good health, it is important to self-examine along with having regular breast exams from your doctor. Around 90 percent of women who detect and treat the disease preemptively survive at least five years after diagnosis, in comparison to the 15 percent survival rate of those who catch it in late stages (Cancer Research UK).
According to Beverly Copalen, R.T. at Doris Shaheen Breast Health Center in Peidmont Healthcare, early detection has proven to save lives. Beverly and the doctors at Peidmont have assembled a list of three steps to detecting breast cancer in its early stages (Peidmont Healthcare).
- Breast Self-Examination (BSE): This should be done monthly at home. BSEs help you become familiar with your chest’s shape and feel in order to recognize any abnormal changes.
- Clinical Breast Examination (CBE): A clinical breast exam is preformed by your doctor in-office. These specialists are trained to recognize abnormalities or warning signs you might miss at home.
- Mammogram: Specialists use this x-ray to get a closer look at suspicious areas. A mammogram might pick up abnormalities before they can be felt.
Keep yourself safe and spread awareness this month by doing your BSEs and scheduling regular clinical breast examinations. For more about breast cancer and preventative care, see our blog post.