In 2004, Mary Ann Wasil found a lump in her left breast during a routine breast self-examination. The unexpected discovery prompted a visit to her doctor, who told her there was nothing to worry about.
Wasil, however, didn’t trust the doctor’s conclusion. The mother of two had been performing breast self-exams “for her whole life,” says her daughter, Betsy Nilan. “My mom knew her body, and she knew what was normal; she was able to speak from a place of confidence. She went to a different doctor, and found out she had breast cancer in both breasts.”
The diagnosis was devastating, but for Wasil, it was also a call to action. Frustrated with the absence of breast health education in schools nationwide, Wasil founded the Get in Touch Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to fighting breast cancer through education.
Wasil died of the disease in 2016, and Nilan became president of the organization to champion her mother’s cause. She joined Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round to discuss her late mother’s mission, the important role of breast self-examinations, and the organization’s new partnership with bra and underwear company ThirdLove for its ‘Stronger Than Pink Collection.’ Ten percent of every purchase from the collection will be donated to the Get in Touch Foundation so that it can continue to offer breast health resources for free.
“We needed to make [breast health] more accessible”
Wasil, alongside a team of medical professionals, developed the Daisy Wheel: an age-appropriate and easy-to-use tool that teaches girls and young women how to perform routine breast self-exams in a way that feels safe and comfortable.
“[The Daisy Wheel] has eight steps on how to do a breast self-exam,” explains Nilan. “We provide it free to schools, for grades 5 through 12. We realized we had such a demand, reaching over a million students, and we needed to make it more accessible, and free for everyone. We launched [the Daisy Wheel] app in June, and now everyone can have access to it [at all times].”
‘Know normal’ for your body
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, approximately 1 in every 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. However, some major health organizations, including the WHO and American Cancer Society, don’t recommend self exams as a screening method, though they do suggest exams help raise awareness about the disease.
Nilan wants to help get the word out that women should know and listen to their bodies. “We just want to educate everyone on what is normal and healthy for your body, and encourage people to be their own health advocates,” explains Nilan. “There’s lots of organizations out there that do not recommend breast self-exams. But we have a whole medical community, and medical advisory board, that created our Daisy Wheel, because there are medical professionals that are encouraging women to do breast self-exams. I hear from survivors every day who say, ‘I found breast cancer through a breast self-exam; thank God I knew my body.’ Even organizations that [don’t recommend breast self-exams] still want you to know what your normal and healthy breast tissue looks and feels like. So, why not just do a breast self-exam?”
Olivia Balsamo is a writer and producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @BalsamoOlivia.
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