In the classic fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, a woman can prove she is royalty by feeling a pea placed beneath 20 mattresses. In the story, having this sensitivity (despite outward appearances) resulted in a happy marriage to a prince. Fast forwarding this into present day reality – new medical tools that may help increase “sensitivity” could possibly help women recognize unusual changes on their bodies.

Alas, as we are not all princesses, we may benefit from some help that increases our sense of touch to find those “peas,” particularly when doing things like breast self-exams. This is particularly relevant as our senses of touch tends to decline with age, when it becomes even more important to take control of our health.

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women and just surpassed lung cancer as the most common overall. According to CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, there were about 2.3 million new cases in 2020, representing 11.7% of all cancer cases, according to published statistics. It is the 5th leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide, with 685,000 deaths. Among women, breast cancer accounts for 1 in 4 cancer cases and for 1 in 6 cancer deaths.

While not a substitute for mammograms and other regular screenings, self-exams are an important way to understand your body by helping develop an awareness of your breasts and familiarity of how your breasts normally feel. About 80% of breast cancers are detected because women themselves notice changes in their breasts, according to Pink Ribbon Germany. That is one of the reasons why the Aware® Pad, an aid to breast self-exams, was created – to increase your sense of touch during breast self-exams.

The Aware® Pad is a medical device, which consists of two proprietary skin-safe membranes with unique lubricant sealed in between. When you place your fingers on the Aware® Pad and press firmly against it, your fingers will glide smoothly across your breast. The Aware® Pad reduces friction between your fingers and your breast and may provide for an easier and more comfortable exam. Studies have shown that the Aware® Pad can help you to recognize breast changes accurately and quickly.

It’s important to note that the product itself doesn’t claim to find lumps or breast cancer, but a study concluded that Aware® is a highly effective tool for early detection of breast abnormalities.  Having Aware® at home could also serve as a reminder to check your breast for any changes each month. You can find it at Walmart online, Amazon or AwareBSE.com.

If you do notice changes, then make an appointment to discuss them with a medical professional, who will then recommend next steps based on their expertise. Knowing your own body better may provide peace of mind to help you sleep at night – hidden pea under your mattress or not.