How this viral photo of lemons is helping women detect breast cancer early

An image is making the rounds on social media and it has the potential to be life-saving. Your initial reaction may be huh? — but here’s how a viral photo of lemons can help women detect breast cancer early. We’ve been advised by our doctors to perform self-exams, but many women don’t know exactly what the early warning signs of breast cancer look like — and Facebook’s rules prohibit any form of nudity in photos.

So, the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization got creative with its Know Your Lemons campaign. As it turns out, images of the citrus fruit are an effective way to show women some of the disease’s warning signs.

Although the lemon diagram was originally posted several months ago, it went viral after Erin Smith Chieze shared the photo on Facebook, along with the story of how a similar image she saw on social media two years ago saved her life.

"The lemon image was actually the first photo I saw when I Googled 'What breast cancer looks like meme'," Chieze told Bustle. "The lemons stood out more, looked sort of like breasts but wouldn’t violate the rules on Facebook about nudity."

Chieze wrote in her post that, although she knew all about self exams, it was the lemon image that immediately raised red flags and prompted her to seek medical attention.

Five days after seeing the photo, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

One in eight American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at some point during their lives, so raising awareness about the early warning signs is critical — and social media is a powerful way to spread the message. Chieze’s post has already been shared nearly 35,000 times in just three days. Although she never expected the image to go viral, Chieze is grateful that her post could help save lives.

"I just wanted to write a note to my friends and family, hoping to provide a visual tool similar to what I saw, that just might help someone else," she told Bustle. "But now knowing that this may reach a much larger audience, I feel grateful that maybe just one person out there will see it, get to their doctor and have the chance of much greater outcomes."

Chieze’s post is an example of the positive ways we can use social media — and a powerful reminder of why it’s so important for women to be vigilant about our health.

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