We’re big fans of TV’s Dr Zoe Williams (ITV’s This Morning and BBC’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor) and so were pleased to hear that she has teamed up with The Estée Lauder Companies UK & Ireland Breast Cancer Campaign to encourage women of all ages to be mindful of their breast health, regularly check their breasts and talk about self-checking with others.
At this time of the year, it’s hard to miss seeing the sea of iconic Pink Ribbons everywhere signalling that we are in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and around 55,200 people are diagnosed with the disease every year. That’s around 150 people a day.
But what can we do to protect ourselves from the harm of breast cancer?
“New research has revealed that one in five (21%) of UK women under 40 have never checked their breasts for signs of cancer.”
Over a third (37%) of women in this age group don’t know what they are looking for when checking their breasts for signs of cancer and one in seven (15%) have never seen or been shown how to check their breasts for signs of cancer.
Commenting on her support for the campaign, Dr. Zoe said:
“What struck me about these findings is that so many women don’t feel confident to check for signs of breast cancer or feel embarrassed to talk about it. We must change this and make it the norm. Women should be encouraging other women to talk more openly about their breasts across generations in their community, including their mum, grandmother, auntie, sister, or friend, to really inspire conversations around the importance of breast health, self-checking, and simply supporting those who might be unsure of what to look for. Any changes that are found should be presented to their GP. While it’s likely not to be anything serious, earlier diagnosis and treatment will improve chances of survival.”
In a further bid to educate and support women with self-checking, Estée Lauder Companies have released a handy, self-check leaflet in partnership with Breast Cancer Now, which illustrates the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to look out for. You can find the leaflet at over 1,750 beauty counters throughout October or download one here.
“If breast cancer is detected early, there is a 90% survival rate, so regular self-checking is a vital step in detecting any early signs of breast cancer.”
Dr Zoe is a passionate advocate for breast health and self-care and offers some useful guidance below on the steps to follow when self-checking your breasts.
How often should we check our breasts?
Ideally, we should be checking our breasts monthly. Some women choose to time their breast check with their periods or if you prefer a text reminder, London-based breast awareness charity, CoppaFeel! has a free, monthly ’Boob Check’ text reminder service to keep you on track.
Register to receive reminders here.
Get to know your breasts
The main purpose of checking your breasts regularly is to get to know what your breasts look and feel like and what is normal for you. By getting to know your breasts well, you’re more likely to notice if something has changed.
How to perform a self-breast check
Step One: LOOK
Standing in front of a mirror, look at your breasts and see if there are any changes in size or shape. Look at your nipples, have they puckered inward or changed direction? Is there a rash on the skin of the breast or the nipple? Now turn to each side, and check again.
Repeat this process with your hands behind your head so you can see under the breasts. Finally, put your hands on your hips and push your shoulders forward look and check once more.
Step Two: FEEL
Imagine your breast has four quarters. Using your three middle fingers, press the skin towards the ribs to compress the breast tissue and rotate your fingers into each section of the breast and nipple. It’s important to continue this movement up to the chest area, all the way to the collarbone. Continue the movement back down the side of your breast and move up to your armpit. You can do this in the shower with soapy fingers or if you have larger breasts, you might find it easier to do it lying down on your back.
What should we be looking for?
- A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit
- A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
- A change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
- A nipple change, for example, it has become pulled in (inverted)
- Rash or crusting around the nipple
- Unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
- Changes in size or shape of the breast
- Pain in your breast or armpit that’s there all or almost all the time
If you feel or see anything unusual that concerns you, go and see your GP. It is never a wasted appointment.
Men get breast cancer too
It is important to remember that men get breast cancer as well and should be regularly checking their breasts using the same method.
Starting a regular routine of self-checking your breasts is the best way we have of protecting ourselves from the harm of breast cancer.
It only takes a few minutes and this preventative measure could save your life.
Watch Dr Zoe’s Live Self-Check Demo
- Cancer Research UK
- Opinium surveyed 2,017 UK women (aged 18+) between 27 June – 2 July 2019. Results were weighted to be nationally representative by age, social grade, and region.
Article written by Traci Aina