Most of us would sadly know someone that has been affected by breast cancer, seeing as one in eight women will be diagnosed with it by the age of 85.
Now, we’re fashionistas here at Blue Bungalow - not doctors- so the following is not medical advice and we encourage you to discuss your medical history with your health provider, but we did think that it was important to share some information with you lovely ladies and spread awareness to a cause that is close to our hearts this Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
First, if you’re over 40 years old, know that you’re eligible for a free mammogram every two years as part of the BreastScreen Australia program. If you’re between the ages of 50 and 74 years old, you should be actively invited to do so through an invitation in the mail. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, have had breast cancer in the past 5 years or have any symptoms you should talk to your doctor, as additional screening may be recommended.
But there are things that you can do between mammograms that could quite literally save your life, as early detection is key.
That starts with getting familiar with your boobs! Set a reminder in your calendar every month to perform a thorough self-examination. This will ensure that you know exactly what your breasts look and feel like so that you can notice any changes and promptly seek medical assistance.
Here’s how to perform a breast self-exam according to the Mayo Clinic:
1) Standing braless in front of a well-lit mirror, start by performing a visual inspection of your breasts.
Look out for any changes in shape, colour or symmetry and don’t forget to inspect your nipples as well, making sure that they are not suddenly inverted. You can start by looking at yourself standing with your hands on your sides, before putting them on your hips to engage your chest muscles and then standing with your arms overhead.
2) Next, lying down on your bed or while in the shower, use the pad of your fingers to feel for any lumps and bumps using variable pressure. This can be easier to do with a bit of shower gel or massage oil so that your fingers can glide across your skin and using the same method on both breasts so that you don’t miss a spot – you could use a clockwise circular motion, for example.
Remember to check under and around your armpits and near and above your collarbone where your lymph nodes are located.
As mentioned above, in addition to lumps, look out for anything that feels unusual or different such as a change in breast size, shape or colour, any changes in your nipples, skin changes such as dimpling, irritation or redness, crusting, discharge and pain.
If you do find a lump, don’t panic – most women have some lumps and bumps in their breasts – but do get it checked out by a doctor, especially if it’s a new lump or if there have been any other kind of changes since your last self-examination.
And *news flash*, while not as common, men can develop breast cancer as they do have breast tissue so let your husbands, sons and nephews know that they should also be looking out for any lumps or changes.
So this October, wear pink, spread awareness and donate to your preferred breast cancer foundation so that we can keep advancing cancer research and save as many lives as possible.
For more information on breast cancer, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and available treatments, visit Cancer Australia’s website.