As part of her senior project to raise breast cancer prevention awareness, Pilgrim High School senior Caitlin Donnelly, 17, teamed up with the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation and held an informational event on school grounds last week during a home football game, which featured the Hope Bus. Also in attendance was Maureen DiPiero, who runs the bus and serves as Donnelly’s project mentor, and Gary Calvino, director of development for the Foundation.
“It’s awesome,” Donnelly said. “I’ve had people tell me that they make sure they read the posters I’ve posted in the hallways.”
The young women on the bus said they feel safer now that they know how to perform breast self-exams. Senior David Tibbitts, 18, who donned a pink wig and a pink Gloria Gemma armband for the occasion, said his great-grandfather had breast cancer and it’s about time people realize men can be victims, too.
So, what’s the best way to perform a breast self-exam?
According to nationalbreastcancer.org, there are three methods. The first can be done in the shower. “Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month, feeling for any lump, thickening or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your health care provider.”
The second way is in front of a mirror. Begin by inspecting your breasts with your arms by your sides and then raise your arms high above your head. Continue by looking for changes in contour, swelling or dimpling of the skin, as well as changes of the nipples. “Next, 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 – so look for any dimpling, puckering or changes, particularly on one side.
The third way is lying down. “When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.” (Warwick Beacon photos by Jessica A. Botelho)