But despite that scary fact, almost half (46%) of women aren’t regularly checking their breasts or have never checked them at all.
That’s according to new research by Breast Cancer Now, which revealed that the main reason women aren’t keeping an eye on their breasts is simply because they forget.
But when one in eight women will go on to develop breast cancer in their lifetime, it’s time that checking your breasts got bumped right to the top of the to-do list.
Particularly when you consider that most cases of breast cancer are found by women noticing unusual changes and visiting their doctor to get them checked out.
“We all lead busy lives and, while it’s understandable that checking your breasts can easily get forgotten, most cases of breast cancer are found by women noticing unusual changes and visiting their doctor to get them checked,” says Eluned Hughes, Head of Public Health and Information at Breast Cancer Now.
“The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it – so it’s important to be breast aware. Being breast aware simply means knowing what your breasts look and feel like normally, being on the lookout for any unusual changes and getting them checked out by your doctor.”
So in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we’ve teamed up with Breast Cancer Now to reveal the breast cancer checks all women should be making.
Know your normal
Whatever your age, it’s important to take time to get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you. Everyone’s breasts are different, and your breasts can change with age and at different times of the month.
It’s important to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel so it will be easier to spot if there are any unusual changes for you.
How do they look?
Eluned recommends looking for any changes in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling, redness or a rash, a change in the position or shape of your nipple, or a change in the size or shape of your breasts – one breast might become larger or lower than the other. You should also look out for any discharge from your nipples and any rash or crusting on the nipple or surrounding area.
How do they feel?
Can you feel a lump? Either in the breast, upper chest or armpit? Is there a lumpy area? Or unusual thickening of the breast tissue that doesn’t go away? Do you notice any unusual pain, either in part of the breast or the armpit?
What about the appearance or the direction of the nipples? For example, has one become inverted (turned in) when it normally points out?
Don’t just check your breasts
Remember to check all parts of the breast area, including your armpits and collarbone.
Check again (and again, and again)
It doesn’t matter when you check your breasts, as long as you check them regularly, advises Eluned. She suggests doing it when you’re in the bath or shower, or getting dressed in the morning so you get into the habit of checking regularly. “Everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes – there’s no special technique and you don’t need any training,” she says.
Check the men in your life
YouGov research conducted by Insurancewith.com has found men to be educationally lacking when it comes to breast cancer. Results showed only 20% of men would see their GP immediately with common symptoms of breast cancer, whilst 78% of men believe there to be poor awareness of the disease.
Although breast cancer in men isn’t overly common, the NHS still says around 350-400 breast cancer cases occur in men each year, so it’s important to encourage the men in your life to check their breasts too.
Spot something? Seek help
If you notice any unusual breast changes, go and see your GP as soon as possible. Not all changes will be breast cancer, but if you are diagnosed, your specialist team will then discuss your treatment options with you.
Follow Breast Cancer Care’s TLC system below.
It’s as simple as TLC
TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
LOOK for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?
CHECK anything unusual with your doctor.
For further information about breast cancer symptoms and checks and for more information on their free Breast Check Now app, visit breastcancernow.org/breastchecknow.
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