23 Oct Why I am checking my breasts: breast cancer month
We all talk about breast cancer in breast cancer awareness month, but how many of us actually go beyond the talk? I feel very strongly about early detection that can be afforded by regular breast checks and I make it my business to know as much as I can about my risk profile. As a 40 year old woman, with a history of breast cancer in the family, I fit the picture. I don’t really help myself, with what can only be described as a stressful daily routine, juggling three children, full-time job and a self-imposed hectic social life.
For as long as I can remember, my mother had breast scares. I have a clear memory of her going into hospital to have a lump removed when I was very small. Another lump was removed when I was in my teens and I remember several biopsies after that. My mother approached mammograms and breast scans in military fashion, demanding regular appointments, never missing a check-up, as if she knew what was coming.
Her sister was treated for breast cancer about 7 years ago and then three and a half years ago, my mother was diagnosed with in Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS). Actually we were very lucky, considered the most ‘friendly’ breast cancer, LCIS is actually pre-cancerous tissue. This tissue was removed quickly, however after the operation the surgeon discovered the LCIS was much more widespread than previously thought, and therefore recommended a full mastectomy. My mother was able to make a full recovery, and despite the distress caused by the breast removal, she escaped mercifully unscathed.
The reality is that Breast Cancer is killing people every day. It is the most common form of cancer in women in the UAE and globally. According to the American Cancer Society one in eight women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives. The Australian National Breast Cancer Foundation state that eight woman are dying from breast cancer every day.
My mother’s brush with breast cancer is one of the happy ones. She caught it early and by agreeing to the mastectomy she avoided radiotherapy or chemotherapy. The fact is: all of us women need to check our boobs regularly.
Checking your breasts is not just about how they feel, but also how they look. Here is some guidance from our medical team on how check yourself at home:
- Lie down and place your left arm under your head. Use your right hand to examine your left breast. With your fingers flat, move gently in small circular motions over the entire breast, checking for any lump, hard knot, or thickening. Use different levels of pressure – light, medium and firm – over each area of your breast. Check the whole breast, from your collarbone above your breast down to the ribs below your breast. Switch arms and repeat on the other breast.
- Look at your breasts while standing in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips. Look for lumps, unusual changes and differences in size and shape. Also check for swelling and dimpling of the skin.
- Raise one arm, then the other so you can check under your arms for lumps. Be sure to keep your fingers flat.
- Squeeze the nipple of each breast gently between your thumb and index finger to check for any discharge or fluid from the nipples.
This is my personal experience of breast cancer and I know that many of us will have their own story to tell. There is hope: Cancer Research UK think that approximately 78% of sufferers in the UK will survive for 10 years or more. Of course the earlier you catch it, the better your chances of survival. So, on this World Breast Cancer day let us talk, share, support and most of all I urge every woman out there to take some time to get to know their boobs!
Health at Hand is offering free video doctor consultations for any women between 8am and 12 noon until 1st November 2018. It’s a really quick and easy way to have an informed chat. Our doctors will help you understand your likely risk of breast cancer and teach you how to check your breasts in secure and private setting, all without leaving your home. Sign up now and use promocode LOVEFROMHAH for a free pay as you go consultation worth 100 AED.
Amy Pickles, Health at Hand