During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to provide our community with the resources and tools they need to protect and prevent.
With an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed among women in the United States in 2021, there has never been a better time to focus on health and protect ourselves.
Although among Latina women, an estimated 28,100 breast cancer cases and 3,100 deaths are expected to occur in 2021, for Hispanic women, breast cancer is often diagnosed at a later stage and is more difficult to treat with larger tumors and hormone receptor-negative.
Early detection is key when it comes to cancer, especially breast cancer, and the sooner you notice any changes in your breast tissue, the higher the likelihood that you will survive your cancer diagnosis.
It all begins with awareness, knowledge, and action to take control of your health and quite literally take your breast health into your own hands. Thankfully, there are several game-changing apps to help women protect their breasts from the comfort of their home (and their phones) so that breast healthcare is approachable and accessible.
What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer
For decades, breast cancer has been haunting women (and men) as the second most common cancer (second only to skin cancer).
Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells, otherwise known as malignant cells, form in the breast tissues. When those cancerous cells grow faster than the cells die, resulting in a tumor. Sometimes tumors in the breast are big enough to feel on the surface, but usually, by the time a lump is large enough to detect, it has been there for several years. Some tumors are more aggressive than others. According to Susan G. Komen, tumors often begin in the milk ducts, with 50-75 percent of cases beginning in those ducts and the rest beginning in other breast tissues.
There are several risk factors for breast cancer, though just because a woman has these risk factors does not guarantee she will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. According to the CDC, factors include, but are not limited to:
- Age – older women are more at risk, and most breast cancers are diagnosed after 50
- Genetic mutations – some inherited genes such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes put a woman at higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer
- Reproductive history – early periods and later menopause raise the risk
- Dense breasts – breasts with more connective and fatty tissue are more likely to get cancer and make it harder to detect tumors
- Personal and family history of cancers – a woman is at higher risk if her first-degree relatives (mother, sister, daughter, etc.) have had breast or ovarian cancer as well
The Susan G. Komen foundation estimates that 43,600 women will die of breast cancer this year, a devastating number. Still, with action, early detection, and increased awareness about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, experts hope that those numbers will continue to trend downward. In fact, since 2007, breast cancer death rates for women over 50 have decreased by 1 percent per year, largely due to early detection, increased awareness, and better treatment.
One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, but the good news is that of those women, there are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors. The hope is that those numbers will continue to move in a positive direction, with fewer cases. Still, more importantly, higher survival rates as treatment options improve and early detection increases.
Experts agree that where breast cancer is concerned, early diagnosis is crucial in determining a person’s chances of survival, and it all starts with women (and men) taking their breast health into their own hands.
Breast exams are more important than ever, and mammograms are extremely necessary for all women over 40 (some doctors recommend beginning at 35). But in addition to those essential screenings, there are other tools that women can use to ensure they are protecting their health and paying attention to their breasts.
It’s 2021, and there seems to be an app that applies to every obstacle or task, and breast health is no different.
Technology and Applications to Help Protect Your Breasts
These five apps are examples of technology doing what technology does best — allowing users to connect on the go and empowering individuals to take control of their lives and do what is best for them from the palm of their hands.
Boarding for Breast Cancer (B4BC) is a non-profit foundation founded in 1996 with the mission of educational outreach and advocacy among young people. Their work is focused on informing youth about early breast cancer detection while promoting healthy habits for prevention and providing support for those impacted by a breast cancer diagnosis. Their app teaches users important basics about screening and early detection, such as how to do a breast self-exam, and it provides wellness tips to help young people maintain an active lifestyle.
This app with a catchy name is on a global mission to improve early detection by empowering women and men to know, recognize and report any breast changes through screening and self-exams. And thanks to their viral #knowyourlemons campaign, they have reached 1 billion people online, saving lives as women discover breast changes as potential symptoms for breast cancer. Their app is designed with early detection as the goal — helping users navigate self-exams, identify the 12 most common symptoms of breast cancer, track their periods, and even take a risk assessment quiz.
The Keep A Breast app is on a mission to reduce breast cancer risk and its impact globally through art, education, prevention, and action. The app offers important educational information as well as support. But the newest and most groundbreaking feature is that the app provides access to healthcare providers for users who do find a lump or abnormality on their breast. Thanks to their partnership with Carbon Health, a technology-enabled healthcare provider, the app connects users with a telehealth medical professional. The goal is to minimize the fear and uncertainty around breast abnormality and turn those feelings into action. “We wanted to be able to bridge that gap to give people access to healthcare as soon as possible,” Shaney jo Darden, founder of the Keep A Breast Foundation, told Verywell.
This app is designed to be user-friendly and effective. Most importantly, to help users establish a screening routine to stay on top of their breast health and advocate for themselves as they communicate with their doctors. The app was created by a breast cancer survivor dedicated to helping others conduct breast self-exams and thoroughly understand their risks and their options where breast health is concerned. “I found out there were three reasons women weren’t doing self-exams,” Jessica Baladad, 36, told Good Morning America. “They were afraid of finding something and not knowing what to do, they weren’t comfortable with their bodies, and they didn’t know how because no one’s ever showed them or talked to them about the importance of an exam, so I thought, ‘I need to advocate for this.'”
This app tackles all of those obstacles that women face — it shows you how to do a self-exam, allows you to set reminders, and tracks your progress for regular screenings.
The Get In Touch Foundation was founded back in 2008 by Mary Ann Wasil, a mother of three diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump during a self-exam. Realizing that there was a lack of information and resources for girls and families who wanted to learn this potentially life-saving skill, the Get In Touch Foundation and their famous Daisy Wheel were formed.
Sadly, in 2016 Mary Ann passed away. Still, her legacy lives on through her children and her foundation, which provides free and accessible information, empowering all to make breast health simple, appropriate, and routine. Their Daisy Wheel app takes that focus to the next level, making it easy to know your “normal” for your breasts and conduct routine examinations to become your own health advocates and mark any noticeable changes in your breasts. The Daisy Wheel app educates users on eight easy steps to perform a breast self-exam and sets reminders for when you are due for your next exams.