Pink ribbons, 5K runs, illustrations of a hand to breast: The images associated with breast cancer awareness usually have nothing to do with what a cancerous breast looks like—which isn’t very helpful in a woman’s personal fight to stop the disease.
That’s why breast cancer survivor Erin Smith Chieze took to Facebook yesterday to express her frustration over this lack of knowledge among women, who are instead given “games” about posting hearts to spread breast cancer awareness. “We need to give REAL information, not cute hearts,” she wrote in her post. “Without having seen a picture randomly with real information, I wouldn’t have known what to look for.”
Chieze said it wasn’t until someone shared a photo not of what breast cancer can feel like, but look like, that she recognized that an indent on her breast was troublesome. She was diagnosed with breast cancer five days later.
Though Chieze couldn’t find the original image that caught her attention online, she posted this one with lemons (which has been shared over 600 times as of this publishing) to show that breast cancer can come in a variety of shapes and abnormalities—from retracted nipples to growing veins to skin erosion.
Doctors are also telling patients to be more generally aware of how their breasts look and feel to catch any changes, and are moving away from encouraging self-exams. “Research has shown that there are no significant benefits to doing monthly self-exams,” Therese B. Bevers, medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told Women’s Day. “We don’t want to confine women to a specific technique, frequency, or time—it’s more about your overall awareness.”
That one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes is just another great reason for women to get to know their bodies.