October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness that affects and claims the lives of thousands of women each year. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime and in 2016, an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. While the number of breast cancer cases have decreased in the last 20 years, it remains one of the leading causes of death among women. However, thanks to increased awareness, early screening, and improved treatments, the number of breast cancer deaths have decreased.

Whether you are a survivor of breast cancer, know someone who has been diagnosed, or just want to help raise awareness and show your support, here are some ways to spread the word on Breast Cancer Awareness and increase the likelihood of early detection:

Early Detection is Key

Although there is no cure for breast cancer, early detection can help increase the rate of survival. Early detection can also help prevent a delayed diagnosis, which can otherwise hinder one’s health or shorten her life. Self-breast exams and recognizing the signs and symptoms is crucial for early detection. Although breast cancer may have little to no symptoms and every woman’s breasts are different, some of the most common symptoms to look for include swelling of all or part of a breast, skin irritation or dimpling, breast or nipple pain, and nipple discharge in non-breastfeeding women.

Self-breast exams should also be part of any woman’s early detection plan and should be performed monthly, not just during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Frequent exams not only help you understand what’s “normal” for your breast, but can alert you to any changes so you can consult with your doctor immediately.

Sharing this vital information with friends, family, and co-workers can help raise awareness and empower women to become more in tune to their bodies and self-advocate for their own health.

Get Involved

In addition to encouraging and educating the women you know about early detection, there are numerous ways you can get involved and spread the word about breast cancer. Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important, it’s just as important to educate and raise awareness year round:

 

  • Use Social Media: Posting on social media platforms is one of the easiest ways to raise awareness and educate to a large group of people in a short period of time. Whether you’re an avid Facebook user or love to Tweet, take some inspiration from this Breast Cancer Social Media Toolkit sample.
  • Talk About Mammograms: Mammograms are the most common and effective screening tools for women, starting at age 40. Discussing issues concerning women’s health have become less taboo the years, but many women still feel uncomfortable talking about their bodies and/or health. Encourage women between 40 and 74 to have a mammogram and even offer to go with them to their appointment.

 

  • Register to Walk: During Breast Cancer Awareness Month there are numerous walks, such as Making Strides, to raise money, awareness, and celebrate/remember all women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Gather together with your family and friends and encourage others to take part and/or donate to cancer research.