Checking Your Breasts - Breast Cancer Awareness Month
For months, coronavirus put many areas of breast cancer on pause. Now more than ever, we need people across the UK to help us press play on breast cancer research and care.
Signs and symptoms
- Lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit – you might feel the lump but not see it
- Change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
- Change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
- Change to the nipple, for example it has become pulled in (inverted)
- Rash or crusting around the nipple
- Unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
- Changes in size or shape of the breast
Women aged 50-70 are automatically invited for a breast screening every 3 years by the NHS, but you may be eligible for breast cancer screening before the age of 50 if you have a very high risk of developing breast cancer. If you're 71 or over you'll stop receiving screening invitations, but you can still ask to have breast screening.
How to check yourself for breast cancerSome people find the TLC method helpful:
- Touch your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
- Look for changes. Does anything look different?
- Check any changes with your GP
Guidance for people with physical disabilitiesPeople with physical disabilities may face barriers when checking their own breasts at home, and when attending breast screening clinics.
Unfortunately, there's very little guidance out there for those who might struggle to self-examine their breasts.
The Spinal Injury Association suggest that you could use a mirror if you struggle to look at your own breasts due to your posture, for example. They also point out that, if you're unable to self-examine because of limited movement or spasms, you could:
- Ask a partner or trusted Personal Assistant to help you
- Ask your GP to check your breasts during an appointment. You ask to see a female GP if that makes you more comfortable
According to the NHS website:
If you have a disability, contact the breast screening unit before your appointment.
Mammography is a procedure that's technically difficult. You have to be carefully positioned on the X-ray machine and must be able to hold the position for several seconds.
This may not be possible for women with limited mobility in their upper bodies or who are not able to support their upper bodies without help.
If you have a disability, your breast screening unit should be able to tell you if screening is technically possible, and about the most appropriate place to be screened. This will usually be at a static unit.
If a mammogram is not technically possible, you should still remain in the call and recall programme, as screening may be easier if your mobility gets better in the future.
- Can a chair be provided so you can sit down to undress?
- Is there a changing room, and is this big enough for wheelchair users or a carer?
- Can you can hold on to something while the x-ray is being taken?
- Can an ordinary chair to be provided so you can sit down for the mammogram?
- Can a carer can help getting your wheelchair in the right position?
- Can a carer can help the radiographer get your breasts in position (the carer would have to leave the room during the x-ray to avoid unnecessary radiation)?
- Is there anything that might help you remain still?
- Is it possible to provide more time for the appointment so you don’t feel rushed?
- Is the appointment venue accessible? Many women are screened in mobile units close to their GP surgery which have steps at the entrance. However, the unit can change the appointment to an accessible venue
- Is there patient transport to take you to the appointment?
Guidance for people with learning disabilitiesBreast Cancer Now have listed some useful resources to support people with learning disabilities to better understand how to check their breasts, and what might happen at a breast cancer screening appointment.
I don’t have boobs, can I get breast cancer?
What if think I'll forget to check?
CrosswordCoppaFeel have put together a fun crossword. You might have to do some Googling, but the first one to post all of the correct answers gets, um, an 'awesome' reaction from me!
QuizCoppaFeel have also put together a quiz. I'll comment the first question below, and will post the next question every time there's a correct answer. There are 15 questions in total.
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