Be breast aware

By at home

Checking your breasts regularly is simple, quick and vital for your health

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, and around 46,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK, as well as 300 men. But there is good news, too. More people than ever are now surviving breast cancer – thanks to improvements in its treatment, screening and awareness.

Give your breasts a little TLC…
A survey by Breakthrough Breast Cancer, (www.breakthrough.org.uk), the UK’s leading charity committed to fighting breast cancer through research, campaigning and education, has just revealed that only 35% of women check their breasts regularly for crucial cancer signs.

Even among those women that do consider themselves breast aware and check for new and unusual lumps in their breasts regularly, many remain unaware of the full range of signs and symptoms to look out for. That’s why the charity recommends that all women check their breasts once a month. Think two or three days before your period; or if periods have stopped, on the same day each month.

Being breast aware doesn’t have to mean following a fancy routine for examining your breasts, it simply means being familiar with how they look and feel so that you notice any changes that may occur.

You can check your breasts by looking at them and feeling them in a way that is comfortable for you – either in the bath or in the shower, while you’re dressing in the morning, standing in front of a mirror or even lying down.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just lumps you need to look out for. Although most women associate lumps with breast cancer, there are other, less well known signs that it’s important to look out for, too.

If you discover anything unusual or you’re worried, you should talk to your GP as soon as possible. If cancer is diagnosed, prompt treatment will offer you the best chance of a successful outcome.

 

Your complete breast care checklist
Here are some of the things that you should keep an eye on:

  • Size or shape – if one breast suddenly becomes larger or lower than the other.
  • Changes in skin texture – such as puckering or dimpling of the skin.
  • Appearance or direction of nipple – one nipple might become inverted.
  • Discharge – one or both nipples might begin discharging a blood-stained liquid.
  • A rash or crusting of the nipple or the surrounding area.
  • Lump in the breast or armpit.
  • Lumpy area or unusual thickening of breast tissue that doesn’t go away after your period.
  • Pain in part of the breast or armpit that is unrelated to periods.

Introducing the breast cancer charities
Breast Cancer Awareness Month was introduced in the UK in 1993, when a group of organisations including charities such as Breast Cancer Care and Macmillan Cancer Relief, together with beauty manufacturer Estée Lauder, got together to launch the campaign. They came up with the pink ribbon, which is now used by all of the major breast cancer charities to symbolise this huge health initiative.

Breakthrough Breast cancer
In 1999, this charity set up the first dedicated breast cancer research centre together with the Institute of Cancer Research. It also does campaigning work on behalf of those affected by breast cancer.

This year’s events This October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Breakthrough Breast Cancer has joined forces with a host of big name brands including Adidas, Marks & Spencer, Smeg and ghd to create a range of stylish, useful products that all carry a donation to the charity. What’s more, Breakthrough’s launched the ‘Go Pink’ initiative encouraging women to raise money for the cause through wearing pink to work or organising pink, girlie-get-togethers. Visit www.breakthrough.org.uk

Breast cancer care
This charity provides vital information, offers emotional and practical support and brings people affected by breast cancer together. It also campaigns for an improvement in standards of support and care and promotes the importance of early detection.

This year’s events Breast Cancer Care has also teamed up with well-known brands including Swarovski, Elemis and even Cadbury’s Flake – look out for the special pink wrappers – so that next time you indulge in some of your fave products you’ll be contributing to the charity’s vital work. It’s also getting behind the pink theme – asking women to organise pink-themed events to raise money, and designating Friday 23 October as the official In The Pink day. Visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk

Breast cancer campaign With a mission to beat breast cancer, this charity funds innovative world-class research in order to understand how breast cancer develops, leading to improved diagnosis, treatment, prevention and ultimately a cure.

This year’s events Breast Cancer Campaign is inviting you to take part in a range of sporting events to raise money for it’s cause during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including Nottingham’s Pedal it Pink charity bike ride. It’s also encouraging women to take part in Wear it Pink by donning a pink item on Friday 30 October. Visit www.breastcancercampaign.org

Celebrity survivors…
These stars have all battled the disease and are now actively spreading the message of awareness

Kylie Minogue
Pop princess Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with the disease in May 2005 aged 36, and had to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and subsequent hairloss before her triumphant return to the public eye in November 2006 with her Showgirl comeback tour. ‘I’m back working and being creative and enjoying all of that,’ said the pop star at the time. ‘But something in the way I do these things has changed. Friends say I seem more present, more here.’

Kylie was very public about her cancer from the start – a stance which apparently resulted in 56% of British women claiming they had an increased awareness of the disease.

Christina Applegate
The 36-year-old star of The Sweetest Thing and Anchorman was diagnosed last year and made the decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy. The actress, whose mother has also had breast cancer, discovered she has the BRCA1 gene mutation which makes breast and ovarian cancer more likely, and resolved that having her breasts removed was ‘the most logical’ solution. The decision was really tough, and Christina says she gets angry at times but recognises this as ‘part of the healing process’.

She’s now 100% clear and felt going public was important as she feels she owes her life to the awareness she had of cancer.

Cynthia Nixon
The actress, who shot to fame as feisty Miranda in Sex And The City, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and underwent a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. But she only went public about her battle in April last year because, she says, she didn’t want paparazzi hanging around the hospital.

Cynthia has since become an active ambassador for the breast cancer organisation Susan G. Koman For The Cure, promoting awareness. ‘As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor,’ Cynt hia divulged, ‘knowing my personal risk made me more aware and more empowered when I faced my own diagnosis.’

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