CRESTVIEW — Women should check their breasts at least monthly, according to Dr. Kevin McIntosh, OB/GYN for North Okaloosa Physician Group.

"There's a couple of ways to do it," McIntosh says. "There's a circular pattern ... where you go from interior to exterior around the breast, or you can do a linear pattern, where you just go up and down.

"The main thing is to just make sure all the breast is covered."

Examining breasts once a month — and a week after a menstrual cycle — is one way to detect abnormalities early, McIntosh said. Waiting five days after a period helps because hormonal changes could spur temporary — and misleading — thickening in the breast, according to WebMD.

Area residents can expect to hear many more tips throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Observances kicked off Oct. 1 during North Okaloosa Medical Center's Healthy Woman program and the Main Street Crestview Association's Pink Street Party, which featured vendors, information booths and guest speakers. In addition, the group set the gazebo beside Okaloosa County's courthouse aglow with pink lights.

Events continue with Making Strides of the Emerald Coast's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, 9 a.m. Oct. 17 at Uptown Station, 99 Eglin Parkway NE, in Fort Walton Beach.

Raising awareness is important, particularly when cancer affects someone you love, Shiloh Raymond, a Northwest Florida State College student, said.

"I'm supporting my mom because she had breast cancer twice; it metastasized into bone cancer, so that's why I'm here supporting the cause," she said during the Pink Street Party. 

A simple self-examination could help women spot symptoms sooner, and early detection increases the likelihood of successful treatment, according to WebMD.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women should schedule an annual mammogram, which is an imaging test on the breasts, when they turn 40 years old.

But the woman and her physician can determine what is best for her individual case, local doctors said.