Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Myths, Facts & Oncology Nurses

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Well, nurses and clinicians, it’s October and you know what that means? Halloween, tricks and treats and costumes, and the beginning of the holiday slide into winter. More importantly, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and not just in our country, but worldwide.

In honor of breast cancer awareness month, let’s brush you up on your breast cancer knowledge. Here are some breast cancer myths that have been debunked, and important facts, sourced directly from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, INC

Breast Cancer Myths – Debunked 

  • A lump in your breast does not automatically mean you have breast cancer. According to research, actually, only a small percentage of lumps in the breast turn out to be cancer. This doesn’t mean routine self-exams aren’t important though. If you find a lump you need to schedule a visit with your physician.
  • Men can have breast cancer. Contrary to popular belief, men do get breast cancer and can die from it. It’s a small percentage compared to the number of women afflicted, but it should not be ignored.
  • To date, no conclusive evidence has been found by the National Cancer Institute linking antiperspirants or deodorants to breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Facts

  • Smoking is a risk factor for developing breast cancer.
  • There is a link between oral contraceptives and breast cancer.
  • There is a link between hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and breast cancer.
  • Self-exams for breast cancer should be conducted on a monthly basis.
  • Mammograms can be uncomfortable or a bit painful, therefore it is recommended to schedule your mammogram in the week following a menstrual cycle when the breasts are typically less sensitized.
  • Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Permanent hair dye or chemical hair straightening products can increase your risk of breast cancer. 

Nurses’ Health Study Cohort Helping Researchers Learn About Breast Cancer

The Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) is a cohort of registered nurses who have agreed to complete questionnaires every two years about diseases, health topics, food intake, and more.

Nurses were selected to be the cohort members because of their broader knowledge about health and their training which would allow them to provide complete and accurate responses.

The first NHS cohort was established in 1976, the second in 1989, and the third in 2010. The focus of the third NHS cohort is,

“NHS 3 is examining how dietary patterns, lifestyle, environment, and nursing occupational exposures impact men’s and women’s health. The study is also looking closely at women’s health issues related to new hormone preparations and fertility/pregnancy and includes a greater focus on adolescent diet and breast cancer risk. Enrollment is still open; for more information, including how to join, visit www.nhs3.org.” 

How to Become an Oncology Nurse

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer (behind skin cancer) that affects women. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death (behind lung cancer) in women. From 1989 to 2016 the death rate of breast cancer in women dropped 40% and continues to decrease albeit more slowly, in women over 50.

While the decreases in breast cancer deaths are largely attributed to increased early detection, the rates of incidence have not decreased. Are you a nurse who has an interest in working with breast cancer patients?

In order to become a nurse specializing in oncology, you must first be a registered nurse (RN). Furthermore, there are several different special certifications you can work towards.

  • Oncology Certified Nurse (ONC®)
  • Certified Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Nurse (CPHON®)
  • Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN®)
  • Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse (BMTCN®)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP®)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS®)

Despite the reality that oncology nurses often work with terminal patients, more and more cancer patients are surviving every year. As advances are made in research, medicine, and technology oncology nurses dedicate themselves to staying informed of changes in the industry. 

Oncology Nurses Continuing Education (CE) Credits

  • Whether you need renewal CE credits, or you haven’t specialized yet but want to learn more about breast cancer or oncology, here are some resources to help you.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) offers several breast cancer courses in their education catalog for free.
  • The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation published this Mega List of Free CE in August, it includes course dates in 2022 and 2023.
  • Free courses for nurses on myCME cover a wide range of topics, including breast cancer. 

Oncology Nurses Can Be PRN Nurses Too!

While many people focus on the financial benefits of becoming a PRN nurse (hello, the pay rates are pretty impressive), many overlook the less discussed benefit of how it can help combat burnout.

The ability to change your work setting and geographic location can be a help for nurses who feel like they’re getting sucked into workplace politics or for others that need change to bump out of an emotional rut. Per diem nursing is receiving a lot of media attention currently as emergency departments struggle with patient intake, but oncology specialty nurses are in demand as well.

Oncology nursing requires compassion and knowledge as much as it requires skill and competence. These qualities are needed in the PRN healthcare staffing industry!

One of the eligibility requirements for the Breast Care Nurse certification is 2,000 hours of breast care nursing experience. If you have your eye on that certification but need to focus on those hours of experience, PRN nursing jobs might be your answer!

NursaTM staffing app has several PRN jobs for nurses and allied healthcare staff who work in the oncology medical field. Download the app and look for per diem oncology work near you and make a difference in the lives of patients with breast cancer.

Written by Miranda Booher, RN

SEO Content Marketing Manager Miranda is a 14-year registered nurse with a healthy background in travel nursing and digital marketing. She brings an interesting combination of stellar copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has an impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Bolivia, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her spending time with her family traveling in the Andes Mountains.

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