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What Students Should Know This Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and breast cancer is the second most deadly cancer among U.S. women. This October, take time to prepare your students for future conversations about breast cancer with patients – and remind everyone in the classroom of the importance of their own breast health.

Opening the Conversation About Breast Cancer Exams

  • Verify that students are familiar with how to perform a breast self-exam (BSE). If they’re not, it’s time to introduce them to the proper technique. Students should not only know how to regularly check themselves, but they should also be familiar with how to teach others to perform a BSE.
  • In the same vein, emphasize the importance of a regular BSE. Mammograms and doctor visits are irreplaceable, but BSEs can and have alerted countless women and men to abnormalities in their breasts. Encourage your students to spread the word to their family and friends as well.
  • Consider a breast cancer FAQ, or “Fact vs. Myth” session. Because of breast cancer’s somewhat recent but strong presence in pop culture, myths and half-truths about the cancer abound. Take the time to have an open discussion with your students, and be sure to welcome all questions. Knowledge of the complexities of breast cancer shouldn’t be reserved for oncology nurses.

Teaching Students to Empower Breast Cancer Patients

Regardless of a patient’s diagnosis, a nurse’s care should be patient-centered and empowering. While every patient deserves to feel in control of her own care, empowering breast cancer patients and survivors is especially crucial. Students can begin to prepare for this practice in the classroom. Here are some ways to break down the concept of empowerment for students.

  1. Information: A large part of giving patients authority in their care involves providing timely, comprehensive, accurate, and accessible information to them.
  2. Communication and Coordination: Communication is key, not only between nurses and patients, but between all care providers of any given patient. Hearing information from different sources that is inconsistent or contradictory will confuse and disorient patients and survivors.
  3. Acceptance of Emotions: Cancer patients need the right to express their full range of emotions, even unpleasant ones. Nurses are the rock in a patient’s journey, and should meet all emotions and questions, even those that feel accusatory, with patience and acceptance – this may be the only opportunity your patient has to let their guard down.
  4. Encouraging Self-Education: Nurses should encourage their patients to seek out information on their own, always making sure to clear up any misconceptions or false claims as they come up. Being knowledgeable about available support groups and resources is a form of empowering the patient.

Many of these practices overlap with the concept of patient-centered care and patient education. If your students would like to learn more about how to be patient educators, consider sharing this post from the SimTalk Blog: Cardiac Nurses as Patient Educators.

Simulation can provide students with a realistic and risk-free way to learn more about breast irregularities. Pocket Nurse carries breast self-exam models and wearable simulators, as well as simulated breasts with cancer to aid in education.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4329958/

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/whats-new-in-breast-cancer-research.html

https://www.americannursetoday.com/what-every-nurse-needs-to-know-about-breast-cancer/

https://www.dallasnews.com/life/better-living/2015/09/30/pop-culture-and-breast-cancer-a-timeline

https://gis.cdc.gov/Cancer/USCS/DataViz.html

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