October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
One in eight women will experience breast cancer in their lives. It’s a staggering statistic that’s repeated every October as breast cancer awareness comes into focus. And while pink ribbons signify a message of hope and strength for those fighting against breast cancer, they’re also a reminder that this month, many more people will receive a life-changing diagnosis. Moreover, many nurses will find themselves delivering the news and working alongside patients battling the disease.
Breast cancer awareness is the key to helping millions
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and an estimated 43,550 women will die from the disease in 2022. Although breast cancer generally affects women, men can also be diagnosed. This year, an estimated 2,710 men will receive a diagnosis.
Fortunately, this disease is also one we know the most about when it comes to early detection and treatment. The majority of breast cancer cases identified are localized, meaning malignant cells have not spread outside the breast. This allows for easier treatment and higher survival rates. In the U.S. today, there are 3.8 million breast cancer survivors.
Detection and early diagnosis save lives
Helping women and men understand how to identify the early signs of breast cancer can lead to early detection and treatment. This is why it’s so important to recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That heightened awareness can (and does) save lives.
Throughout the month of October, nurses can participate in and recommend a few simple best practices to better understand and check for breast cancer:
- Review the list of risk factors, including family history, race, and lifestyle choices
- Understand which symptoms are signs of early- or late-stage breast cancer
- Perform routine self-exams to check for lumps in breast tissue
- Schedule an annual mammogram with a health care provider
- Research breast cancer foundations, donate, or spread the word to others
Nurses must care for themselves and their patients
Although awareness and treatment save lives, Breast Cancer Awareness Month can be a challenging time. This is particularly true for nurses, who are exposed to breast cancer in an impactful way.
More women come in for mammograms and biopsies each October. Inevitably, this means more women are getting diagnosed with breast cancer, and many begin treatment. Nurses are there to witness it all. They are there to hold their patients’ hands, offer words of support, and deliver good and bad news.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month might come with some intense emotional labor. It’s important that nurses care for their physical and mental wellbeing during this time. They should not only encourage patients to care for their bodies and screen for breast cancer, but they should heed that same advice for themselves, too.
Follow the same breast cancer awareness advice you’d give your patients, but also take care of your mental health by finding healthy outlets for stress, seeking mental wellness services, and recuperating off the clock. By prioritizing your own health, you’ll be in a better position to care for patients and help people succeed in the fight against breast cancer.