Woman credits early cancer diagnosis to viral lemon photo

One in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, according to BreastCancer.org.

While that statistic is troubling, it is important to note that current treatment options for the disease can have a very high success rate -- so long as it is diagnosed in its early stages.

In order to help with crucial early detection, breast cancer survivor Erin Smith Chieze posted a now-viral photo on Facebook to give women a graphic glimpse at what the disease actually looks like.

No "cute hearts," as she put it -- just real, useful information.

"In the past few days, I have received quite a few private messages about a "game" going around where you post a heart (on Facebook)," she wrote. "Then you are secretly supposed to state it is for breast cancer awareness."

"This is my response to all of these messages. Someone once posted a picture on Facebook of what breast cancer can look like. Not feel, but look like."

Chieze says the image, which was created by Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont for Worldwide Breast Cancer, was actually what helped her diagnose her own cancer two years ago.

"In December of 2015 when I saw an indentation that looked like one of those pictures, I instantly knew I had breast cancer. I tried to feel for a tumor, but my tumor was non palpable. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 days later and with stage 4 the following month. A heart did 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."

Since Chieze posted the photo on January 10, it has racked up over 13,000 shares and accrued more than 300 comments from women around the world, some even sharing their own experiences with the disease.

Chieze ended her poignant message by appealing that women share useful images like the lemon photo to heighten vigilance rather than post "cute" symbols like hearts and ribbons.

"We need to give REAL information, not cute hearts," she pleaded. "Without having seen a picture randomly with real information, I wouldn't have known what to look for. Do us a favor, stop playing games with my life and start truly helping people. Metastatic breast cancer treatment research and real awareness."

Learn more about warning signs and risk factors of breast cancer:

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