By Alexandria “Wisteria” Prejido, Staff Writer

As we all know, breast cancer is becoming more prevalent. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer. It is only second to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death among women. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it is here to remind us women (and even men) how important regular self-checks are and of how common this type of cancer really is.

Annually, it is estimated that about 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. There are many risk factors besides being a woman that contribute to breast cancer. Such factors include age (women over 65 years old), weight (overweight or obese), genetics and lifestyle (lack of physical activity).

Breast cancer is often hard to detect, which often leads to late treatment of the illness. Early breast cancer generally does not cause any pain. However, as the cancer progresses, a few signs and symptoms start to surface. These signs and symptoms include a change on how the breast or nipple appears, such as a change in size or shape of the breast, or a change in how the breast or nipple feels, such as tenderness or a feeling of a lump on or near the breast. Presence of nipple discharge is also a common symptom of breast cancer. Detecting these symptoms early often proves crucial and can make a lifetime difference. Therefore, breast self-examinations are often important and encouraged.

Here are instructions on how to do a breast self-exam according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation:

A. In the shower: Fingers flat, move gently over every part of each breast. Use your right hand to examine the left breast, left hand for the right breast. Check for any lump, hard knot or thickening. Carefully observe any changes in your breasts.
B. In front of a mirror: Inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour of each breast, a swelling, a dimpling of the skin or changes in the nipples. Then rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match — few women’s breasts do.
C. Lying down: Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. With the fingers of your left hand flat, press your right breast gently in small circular motions, moving vertically or in a circular pattern covering the entire breast. Use light, medium and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple and check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

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