This viral photo of lemons is helping women detect breast cancer

(Photo: Getty)
(Photo: Getty)

You may have noticed your friends posting heart emojis on their female friends’ Facebook walls in recent days — the hearts are meant to be friendly reminders that women should get their breasts examined.

The concept is subtle and meant to cause a chain reaction; sort of an inside secret or a game — but breast cancer survivors say these sort of concepts can make knowing what signs to look out for difficult.

“In the past few days, I have received quite a few private messages about a “game” going around where you post a heart, then you are secretly supposed to state it is for breast cancer awareness,” Erin Smith Chieze said in a poignant Facebook post that has been shared over 17,000 times. “We need to give REAL information, not cute hearts.”

Chieze said that someone once posted a picture on Facebook of what breast cancer can look like (“not feel, but look like”) and that’s what helped her become more aware. In December 2015, she identified an indentation in her breast that looked similar to one of the pictures she saw, and she “instantly knew” she had breast cancer.

“I tried to feel for a tumor, but my tumor was non-palpable. I was diagnosed with breast cancer five days later and with stage 4 the following month,” she said, adding that an emoji heart does nothing for awareness.

“I knew what breast cancer was. I knew all about self exams, but a picture of what to look for keyed me into knowing I had a terminal disease. Without having seen a picture randomly with real information, I wouldn’t have known what to look for. Do us a favour, stop playing games with my life and start truly helping people.”

She shared Worldwide Breast Cancer’s #knowyourlemons campaign image — an adaptation of lemons that resemble various breast changes that could indicate a problem, including growing veins, retracted nipples, new breast shape/size, indentations, skin erosion, heat and dimpling.

Chieze said the lemons image is similar to the one she originally found helpful.

“PLEASE, stop playing games that do not actually promote awareness, they often cause people to tune out anything that might even mention the word awareness. So if you truly want to help people WITH cancer, or those who will GET cancer, share photos like this one,” she said.

“It truly did make a difference for me.”

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