We all know that October is the pink month and many of us reflect on the experiences of our loved ones or people we know who have been affected by breast cancer, but how often are we actually checking our own breasts?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, and although research has revealed that breast cancer is more common in White females than in Black or Asian females the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) suggests that cancer progresses more aggressively in black women.
Adele Sewell, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, aged just 35. She was then diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007 and had a recurrence of ovarian cancer in 2010. She has had three surgeries for cancer including a lumpectomy, radiation and two courses of chemotherapy.
With one in eight women developing breast cancer during their lifetime, equating to 150 diagnosed cases every day in the UK, it’s important that we check our breasts, but even more crucial is understanding what to check for.
We can all relate to the rapid and sometimes flippant way we women feel our breasts during our daily hygiene routine or whilst trying to inconspicuously scratch an itchy boob in public however, it’s time to slow-it-down! Get to know your breasts and what is normal for you.
You can check them in the bath or shower, or whilst moisturizing. Make sure you feel around your whole breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone, looking out for the following:
- a change in size or shape of the breast
- a lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue
- redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
- a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like orange peel)
- discharge (liquid) that comes from the nipple without squeezing
- your nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing its position or shape
- a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
- constant pain in your breast or your armpit.
Most women will experience changes in their breasts at different stages in life. Normal breast changes occur pre-menstruation, during pregnancy, when breastfeeding, before, during and after menopause. Also note that some benign breast conditions may make your breast appear different.
In October 1998, Adele noticed that her breast looked fuller. Acknowledging some of the breast cancer awareness campaigns she had seen, she decided to take a closer look in the mirror. She found a lump and asked her friend to check it out. Her friend recommended that Adele contact her husband in the UK to book an appointment with her GP for as soon as she returned home. Not wanting to worry her husband, Adele didn’t follow up on those actions until two months later, at which point she had been aware of the lump for three months!
Another factor to consider is inherited genes. A number of Adele’s family members had breast and ovarian cancer therefore it was recommended that she get tested for the faulty BRCA gene. Adele discovered she had the faulty BRCA2 gene mutation and the following month her eldest sister Yvette, was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2014, Adele’s other sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer.
It’s important to remember that 78% of women survive breast cancer for 10 or more years.
Adele is a cancer survivor!
Since her diagnosis she has started volunteering for Breast Cancer Care and took part in the annual Breast Cancer Care London Fashion Show last year. This year, Adele has taken part in Asda’s Tickled Pink Campaign which is celebrating 20 years of raising vital funds for Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now.
Her advice to women and men, who can also be affected by breast cancer is:
“Make time to check your breasts at least once a month. Even if you are busy. The best way of looking after the ones you love and doing a good job is to look after your health.”
Adele also says that she wants to see more people of colour involved in breast cancer awareness events and sharing their personal experiences.
“Cancer does not discriminate and hearing the experiences of people who look like you or share a similar background is very important. We need more people of colour, including men, to share their experiences.”
If you have concerns about your breasts or are simply unsure about any changes, contact your GP who will investigate further. The rule is simple… “If in doubt, check it out!”
Illustration Image Credit: @peniel_enchill; Stock Image Credit: Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo.