Jugs, boobs, tits, breasts – let’s not be coy ladies, we’ve all got them (and some men too!) whether small or large, pert or flapping in the breeze so perhaps it would be a good idea to make sure they’re healthy?
It doesn’t seem to matter how many times self-examination is discussed on TV it is still more common (in my experience) to find women who don’t self-examine than those who do. It does seem a little irresponsible to not at least cop a quick feel in the shower to make sure there are no lumps or bumps to worry about. And if this sounds like a lecture, well then good! How important are five minutes out of your life if it means you get to live your life?
I suppose I’m a bit more aware of breast cancer as my mum has had it, but I also know many other people whose lives have been touched but it – it is, after all the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, with 48,000 diagnoses each year (Breakthrough Breast Cancer, 2011). More women than ever are surviving breast cancer these days, thanks to improved screening and catching it early can – literally – mean the difference between life or death. I’ll also take a brief moment here to let you know that 300 men per year are also diagnosed with breast cancer – so this disease is certainly not sexist.
For the past four or five years I have been a participant in the Breakthrough Generations Study, which is a long-term study of over 100,000 women of all ages, some who have had breast cancer and some who have not. The aim of the study is to pinpoint what lifestyle factors might contribute to breast cancer and it is taking place over up to 40 years. Originally I was sent an initial questionnaire about my lifestyle, family cancers, whether I had had any children or not and had to send that back with a blood sample to examine hormonal and familial factors. Periodically I get questionnaires through the post to update them on my lifestyle – for example in my first questionnaire I had not had children and obviously now I have had two children and breastfed them – which according to some sources will improve my chances of not getting breast cancer.
The study has reached its target number of participants but is still welcoming volunteers so if you are interested in taking part please do get in touch with them.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer have a great self-examination video on their website, which I would urge you to have a look at, and they also offer a self-examination reminder service and an iPhone app with all this information – which I’ve just downloaded.
There are many websites detailing how to self-examine, and even kits you can buy to help you, but to be honest just getting to know your breasts, what they look like, what they feel like and what is normal for you is the only thing you need to start you off. If anything seems different to you and you are worried GO TO SEE YOUR GP. Even if it turns out to be something quite innocent (which in most cases it is), is it worth the risk that it’s not?
I’ll end the lecture now with some handy links about self-examination and the NHS Screening Programme, but I think you can see my message. Get to know what is normal for you, take the time to examine your breasts and if you find something you’re not happy with please, please. PLEASE get it checked.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer, 2011 Understanding Breast Cancer [Online] http://breakthrough.org.uk/breast_cancer/breast_cancer_facts/index.html [Accessed 12/04/11]