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Checking Your Breasts - Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,210 Disability Gamechanger
edited November 2020 in Coffee lounge
Breast Cancer Now are heading up Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to raise awareness of the cancer that around 1 in 8 of us will get.
Every October, people all over the world show their support for people affected by breast cancer. Our work’s always important, but October is when we really get to shout about it.

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

This information has been taken from the Breast Cancer Now website

series of photos illustrating the signs of possible breast cancer as listed below
  • 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
If you notice any changes, you should contact your doctor straight away. They might send you to a specialist breast cancer clinic if they think it's worth checking out, and they might suggest you get a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy done, as outlined on the NHS website. 

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 cancer

Some 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 disabilities

People with physical disabilities may face barriers when checking their own breasts at home, and when attending breast screening clinics.

Self-examination

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
Mammograms

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.

There's also some really useful information in this blog post on mammograms for wheelchair users, including 10 things you could ask the clinic before you attend:
  1. Can a chair be provided so you can sit down to undress?
  2. Is there a changing room, and is this big enough for wheelchair users or a carer?
  3. Can you can hold on to something while the x-ray is being taken?
  4. Can an ordinary chair to be provided so you can sit down for the mammogram?
  5. Can a carer can help getting your wheelchair in the right position?
  6. 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)?
  7. Is there anything that might help you remain still?
  8. Is it possible to provide more time for the appointment so you don’t feel rushed?
  9. 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
  10. Is there patient transport to take you to the appointment?

Guidance for people with learning disabilities

Breast 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?

Yes! Even if you don’t have breasts, breast cancer can grow in the small amount of breast tissue you have behind your nipples.
The signs and symptoms tend to be the same, so get checking! 
The NHS website has some more information on this.

What if think I'll forget to check?

It’s easy to let life get in the way, but the wonderful CoppaFeel are on-hand to help. Sign-up to get free text reminders to check your breasts here.

Activities

Crossword

CoppaFeel 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!

Quiz

CoppaFeel 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.

Do you have any ideas for how someone might be able to do a self-examination if they have a physical impairment, such as a visual impairment or a lower level of dexterity in their hands or fingers? 
Online Community Coordinator, she/her

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Replies

  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,210 Disability Gamechanger
    How old was the founder of CoppaFeel, Kris Hallenga, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer? 
    Online Community Coordinator, she/her

    Want to tell us about your experience on the community? Talk to our chatbot here and let us know what you think
  • chiariedschiarieds Community champion Posts: 6,896 Disability Gamechanger
    Crossword
    1a - men
    3a - mastectomy
    5a - collarbone
    9a - nipple
    11a - radiotherapy
    13a - eight
    1d - mammogram
    2d - lump
    4d - chemotherapy
    6d - biopsy
    7d - monthly
    8d - dimpling
    10d - genetic
    12d - armpit
  • chiariedschiarieds Community champion Posts: 6,896 Disability Gamechanger
    Quiz
    Kris was 23
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,210 Disability Gamechanger
    Nice one on the crossword answers @chiarieds

    Yep, she was 23 :worried: It's unusual to get breast cancer that young, but it shows how important it is for all of us to check ourselves, regardless of age.

    Next question:

    What stage was Kris’ breast cancer at when it was finally diagnosed?
    Online Community Coordinator, she/her

    Want to tell us about your experience on the community? Talk to our chatbot here and let us know what you think
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