October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means there’s no better time than right now to check your boobs!
1 in 7 women and 1 in 700 men are diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime. With these statistics, breast cancer continues to be the most frequently occuring cancer in women in Australia. However, early detection through self-examination has proven to be the best chance of effective prevention.
The rise of the ‘self-check’ has seen an increase in early detection, resulting in more effective prevention. Self-examination involves knowing your body and being able to feel around for irregularities. As we go through life, our bodies are subject to change, so it is essential to be able to identify when any abnormalities emerge at any stage.
The purpose of getting into the habit of doing a personal examination of your breasts is to be able to recognise their unique look and feel.
Healthcare professionals recommend doing a self-check once a month. That means you should be doing it a lot more consistently than when it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you are still menstruating, it is a good time to check at the end of your period. If you have reached menopause, set a date in your calendar each month so that you are checking consistently.
You can do it more frequently as well, with the process being able to take place while you’re dressing for the day or night, lying down or in the shower.
The process of self-examination is a painless and smooth task:
1. Start by examining your breasts in the mirror. You are looking to make sure your breasts are of their usual size, shape and overall visual appearance. It is important to try to notice if there is any dimpling or bulging, if a nipple that is inverted, or if there is any redness or soreness.
2. Lift your arms up and don’t be afraid to feel around! Use two fingers with a range of pressure starting with light and moving to firm, and feel around for any lumps, thick spots or other changes. You can do this in the mirror or in the shower, and using period wash as a lubricant can make it a little bit more comfortable and easy.
3. It is also important to check under the armpits for any irregularities.
4. If you find any changes or abnormalities, reach out to your local GP for a check up.
As well as regular checks, make sure you’re looking out for the following symptoms:
- Thickening in the breast
- Nipple sores or discharge
- Discomfort or swelling in the armpit
- Rash or red swollen breasts
- Ongoing pain that isn’t in relation to your menstrual cycle
There are many causes of breast cancer, with many still being unknown. A few main causes identified by medical professionals include family history of the illness, getting older and hormonal imbalances, which can cause impacts to the breast tissue.
Hormonal fluctuations can happen at naturally occurring times, including during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. Having regular checkups with your GP can help navigate the situation if you find something is wrong. There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, which is why it is so important that we make a habit of checking thoroughly for any lumps or irregularities.
There are ways to lower the risk of breast cancer. These include maintaining a healthy weight and physical activeness, reduced alcohol intake, genetic testing and making a consistent effort to self-examine.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is a month where we can acknowledge all those who have suffered at the hands of cancer, as well as spread important messages regarding the illness.
If you want to show your support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you can do the following:
- Wear pink for the month - the international symbol for breast cancer awareness is the pink ribbon.
- Spread the message on social media to remind people how important it is to do
- Take a look at what your local community is doing to raise awareness, including fun runs and charity events.
The most important thing to remember, is to check your boobs often and encourage others to do the same. It’s safe, it’s healthy, and it’s important!