By Manveet Basra, associate director, public health, inclusion and awareness, at Breast Cancer Now.
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a dedicated time to spotlight breast cancer and spread important breast health awareness messages across society. And with latest research by Breast Cancer Now revealing more than 2 in 5 (44%) UK women don’t check their breasts regularly for possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer, the charity is calling for all women to regularly check their breasts and to ‘get to know their normal’.
According to our latest breast-checking habits, YouGov survey, 1 in 10 (10%) UK women revealed they’ve never checked their breasts, and 13% check at least once a year or less. When asked what stops or prevents women from regular breast checking, a multitude of notable barriers were revealed, including forgetting to check (46%), not being in the habit of checking their breasts (37%), lacking confidence in checking their breasts (18%), and 14% said they didn’t know how to check their breasts.
Why people should be breast-aware
Two-thirds of breast cancers are found when women detect a new or unusual breast change and get this checked out by their GP, and the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of treatment being successful, and lives potentially being saved from breast cancer.
This is why we want every woman to know how vital breast checking is and to feel empowered to regularly check their breasts so that it’s easier to spot any new or unusual changes and get them checked with a GP.
With the most notable barrier to women regularly breast checking being that they forget, this October is a timely opportunity to remind women to get it back on their agenda and to be aware of the different signs and symptoms of the disease.
Get to know your normal with TLC: touch, look, check
Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes. It could be while getting dressed, showering or applying moisturiser. It’s important to check your whole breast area, armpits and up to your collarbone (upper chest) for changes.
There’s no special technique and you don’t need any training; at Breast Cancer Now, we say it’s as simple as TLC: touch, look, check.
1. Touch your breasts: can you feel anything new or unusual?
2. Look for changes: does anything look different to you?
3. Check any new or unusual changes with a GP
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to look out for.
Breast cancer can cause a number of signs and symptoms and it’s vital that women speak to their GP if they notice a change to their breast that’s new or unusual for them.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:
1. A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit
2. A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
3. A change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
4. A nipple change, for example, it has become pulled in (inverted)
5. Rash or crusting around the nipple
6. Unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
7. Changes in size or shape of the breast
Some of these signs and symptoms will appear differently on various skin tones and on its own, pain in your breasts is not usually a sign of breast cancer. But women should look out for pain in their breasts or armpit that’s there all or almost all the time. Although rare, men can also get breast cancer. The most common symptom of breast cancer in men is a lump in the chest area.
For more information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, visit breastcancernow.org/checking. If you’re worried about breast cancer or have a question about breast health, Breast Cancer Now is here to support you every step of the way. Speak to our expert nurses now by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 or visit forum.breastcancernow.org.
About the author
Manveet Basra, associate director of public health, inclusion and awareness Breast Cancer Now.
Manveet leads on the development and delivery of Breast Cancer Now’s Public Health and Wellbeing programmes, representing the charity externally on matters relevant to public health and equity, diversity and inclusion and interventions with the aim of empowering patients and the public to play a full role in managing their own risk of getting breast cancer, diagnosing breast cancer earlier and improving their quality of life after a breast cancer diagnosis.