Your breasts – don’t be a stranger

Your breasts – don’t be a stranger

Checking our breasts regularly is a vital health habit. As October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s time to get in touch, says Patsy Westcott.

Checking our breasts regularly is a vital health habit. As October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s time get in touch, says Patsy Westcott 

How often do you check your breasts for changes that could point to cancer? Chances are not nearly enough. According to the stats one in seven of us (14%) aged 50 to 70 rely on routine mammograms to check for breast cancer and pretty much ignore our breasts the rest of the time.

Why checking your breasts is important

With eight out of ten breast cancers diagnosed in women of 50+ we need to get up close and personal more often than the every three years that NHS screening invite plops through the letterbox. Which is why the charity Breast Cancer Care wants us all to be more breast aware.

Truth be told many of us don’t check our boobs for fear of what we might find – something I understand only too well.

My mum and grandmother were both in their early fifties when they developed and died of breast cancer. And I admit as I approached this age I was worried sick I would follow suit. But one thing I know for sure is that my family history is all the more reason to be breast savvy. And the same goes for all of us of a CERTAIN age.

Improving our lives, reducing the risk

Years of following breast cancer research have made me aware that four lifestyle steps that can help protect against breast cancer.
  • staying a healthy weight
  • keeping an eye on the tippling (no more than a unit of alcohol a day and, ideally, a couple of alcohol-free days a week)
  • regular exercise
  • a plant-based Mediterranean-style diet
  • Improving medical care

    I’m delighted that advances in treatment mean the disease needn’t be the death sentence it was back in the day for my mum and grandmother. Almost nine out of 10 women (86.6%) live for five years after diagnosis and almost eight out of 10 (78%) are still alive 10 or more years later. More than two thirds (65%) survive 20 years or more – all of which is really great.

    Looking after ourselves

    Ultimately, the best chance of successful treatment it’s vital to be breast aware. How often should we check? Every four weeks or so – there’s no right or wrong way. It’s all about looking and feeling regularly: in the bath or shower, when applying moisturizer, getting dressed – basically whatever suits you.

    Here’s how and what to look out for

    Check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone. See the doctor if you spot any of the following:

    • A change in size or shape
    • Redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
    • Discharge from the nipple without squeezing
    • A swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
    • A lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast
    • A change in skin texture e.g. puckering or dimpling (like orange peel)
    • A nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing position or shape
    • Constant pain in a breast or armpit

    Been diagnosed with breast cancer?

    For care, support and information call Breast Cancer Care’s Nurses free on 0808 800 6000 or visit

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    Coco 18/05/2017

    I went to bed one night and woke up to find a lump in my left breast,that was 4cm in length.Thats how quick cancer can hit you.So please check yourselves and ever your partner.Im more paranoid now than ever before.Mine was found in December 2015 and removed in January 2016

    Please check x

    Hockeymum1477 20/03/2017

    I'm a survivor. I was tired a lot, then found a lump. GP, hospital confirmed. Had two tumours that had fused. Surgery, chemo, radiotherapy. 12 months of my life gone. But I had 4 kids, and was in a new relationship. He stayed n helped. I was not going to leave my kids. I fought and won. 12 years on, I'm still clear. Without my regular checks, I doubt I'd be here. I married the man, btw. But he passed away recently. The kids have grown, have their own lives. Check daily. Please. Xx

    Once a month

    Lizzie 04/12/2016

    Just had problems with my right boob went to see my gp she found a lump 2 days later had a call from Brest clinic got me in the end of the following week. Got the all clear but it was a scary time. Don't wait get checked right away. The breast clinic see's everyone within 2 weeks which is great less time to worry,

    Everyone should check

    Leesylou 16/10/2016

    I'm forever getting cysts & having to toddle off to the clinic to be checked. It's pretty stressful but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Lots of my friends don't check but it's something we all should do. You never know.

    not always a lump

    sandra210 09/10/2016

    a friend of mine had no symtoms on breast but was prone to cysts through out her life ,she had a few mamograms and wasnt till she had a gut feeling something was not right she had to fight to get a early mamogram where they found a mass ,always go by your gut

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