October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with one person being diagnosed every 10 minutes, we at The Unedit feel that it’s important to offer the right information and guidance. That’s why this October we’re working in support of Breast Cancer Care, the only specialist UK-wide support charity for people affected by breast cancer. Each week, we’ll be bringing you articles with the help of the charity’s specialists, to do our part in raising awareness.
Discussing the importance of being breast aware, Addie Mitchell, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care, says:
Knowing what warning signs to look for can lead to earlier detection of breast cancer, which can be crucial in providing more effective treatment and, ultimately, saving lives. So whatever your age it’s really important to get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you. Make this Breast Cancer Awareness Month the time you start to get used to touching and looking at your breasts in a way that’s comfortable and convenient for you. That might be while you’re in the shower or getting dressed, or perhaps when you’re putting on body lotion.
There’s no ‘correct’ way to check your breasts, just look and feel regularly so any unusual changes to your breasts can be spotted quickly. It’s important to remember that this isn’t just a lump, it can be anything that is different or new – there are many different signs and symptoms to look out for, including:
1. A change in size or shape of your breast
Your breasts change constantly throughout your life from puberty, through adolescence, and before, during and after the menopause. This is because levels of hormones in your body change at different times in your life. While most breast changes aren’t breast cancer, if you do notice any changes that are new for you, get them checked out by your doctor.
2. A lump or area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast
Breasts may feel either smooth or lumpy – both are normal. Your breasts may feel lumpy or different around the time of your period, but they’ll often settle down again when it’s over. Very occasionally lumps are a sign of a breast condition which will not become breast cancer, but if you find a lump in your breast that you’re worried about, see your doctor. Although it’s very unlikely that there’s anything wrong, the doctor will check it out and can put your mind at ease.
3. A change in your nipple
Nipples come in many different shapes, sizes, and colours and can look different on each breast. Become familiar with the way your nipples look so you can spot any changes, like your nipple becoming inverted or looking different in some way – perhaps a change in its position or shape.
4. Liquid — sometimes called discharge — that comes from the nipple without squeezing
Nipple discharge is generally white, but can range from yellow to green to a brown/red colour. Unless there’s a large amount of discharge from the nipple, it’s likely nothing to worry about.
5. Pain in your breast or your armpit that’s there all or almost all the time
Breast pain can cause a lot of anxiety with many women worrying that they have breast cancer. Breast pain at some point or another is very common in women of all ages. However, breast pain alone is not usually a sign of breast cancer and is much more likely to be due to other factors like your period. If you feel tenderness or pain in your breasts that doesn’t go away, speak to your doctor about it.
6. A swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
Breast cancer can affect any area that has breast tissue, so be sure to check all parts of the breast, under the armpit and up to the collarbone.
7. A change in skin texture
This includes puckering or dimpling — for example, this can look like the skin of an orange.
8. Redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
This may appear like eczema.
It’s important to remember that most breast changes are likely to be normal, they could be linked to your period, for example, or non-cancer breast conditions such as cysts. But if you do notice something unusual, get it checked out with your doctor.
Despite its importance, one third of women aren’t checking their breasts regularly, and a staggering 20% don’t know how to check for anything out of the ordinary.
This month, Breast Cancer Care has teamed up with Instagram, Leo Burnett and Ridley Scott Associates, to create a short film that will encourage more women to be breast aware — and know what they’re looking for. You can take part in the #booberang campaign by watching the film (below), and Boomerang yourself in your own (fully clothed) #booberang. Then, nominate three friends, and watch the #booberangs help to educate and encourage women to check themselves more regularly! You can also do your bit by sharing your own infographic showing the signs and symptoms.
Discussing the launch of #booberang, Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care, says: “Every single woman, whatever their age, should be confident about how to check their breasts, and feel comfortable doing it. This innovative, engaging campaign will help equip and empower thousands with the tools to be breast aware for life.”