October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here, Jackie Harris, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care, talks about the importance of checking your breasts, and what you should be looking for…
Signs and symptoms
When you think about breast cancer, you’re likely to think of a woman finding a lump in their breast. But in reality, there are many different signs and symptoms to look out for.
A Breast Cancer Care survey found that a third of women aren’t regularly checking their breasts for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and many aren’t aware of symptoms other than a lump. For instance, two-fifths (39%) did not know to look out for redness or a rash on the breast or nipple, and over a quarter (28%) did not know a nipple becoming inverted can be a symptom.
How to check
Many women told us that they don’t check their breasts because they don’t know how to do it – but the good news is there is no ‘correct’ way. Breast awareness is all about knowing what’s normal for you so you can notice any changes to your breasts, whatever they may be.
Try 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. 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.
It’s important to remember that most breast changes are likely to be normal – changes linked to your menstrual cycle, for example, or non-cancer (benign) breast conditions such as cysts. But if you do notice something unusual, get it checked out with your GP.
Checking your breasts regularly can lead to earlier detection of breast cancer. This can lead to simpler and, more effective treatments.
Men need to be aware, too
We know that three quarters (73%) of men don’t check their chest area regularly. Breast cancer in men is very rare, but it does happen – every year around 340 men are diagnosed in the UK. So it’s important for men to get to know how their chest looks and feels as part of their regular health checks.
For care, support and information on breast cancer, call Breast Cancer Care free on 0808 800 6000 or visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk