Your breasts – don’t be a stranger

Your breasts – don’t be a stranger

Checking our breasts regularly is a vital health habit. As October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s time get in touch, says Patsy Westcott

Checking our breasts regularly is a vital health habit. As October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s time get in touch, says Patsy Westcott 

How often do you check your breasts for changes that could point to cancer? Chances are not nearly enough. According to the stats one in seven of us (14%) aged 50 to 70 rely on routine mammograms to check for breast cancer and pretty much ignore our breasts the rest of the time.

Why checking your breasts is important

With eight out of ten breast cancers diagnosed in women of 50+ we need to get up close and personal more often than the every three years that NHS screening invite plops through the letterbox. Which is why the charity Breast Cancer Care wants us all to be more breast aware.

Truth be told many of us don’t check our boobs for fear of what we might find – something I understand only too well.

My mum and grandmother were both in their early fifties when they developed and died of breast cancer. And I admit as I approached this age I was worried sick I would follow suit. But one thing I know for sure is that my family history is all the more reason to be breast savvy. And the same goes for all of us of a CERTAIN age.

Improving our lives, reducing the risk

Years of following breast cancer research have made me aware that four lifestyle steps that can help protect against breast cancer.
  • staying a healthy weight
  • keeping an eye on the tippling (no more than a unit of alcohol a day and, ideally, a couple of alcohol-free days a week)
  • regular exercise
  • a plant-based Mediterranean-style diet
  • Improving medical care

    I’m delighted that advances in treatment mean the disease needn’t be the death sentence it was back in the day for my mum and grandmother. Almost nine out of 10 women (86.6%) live for five years after diagnosis and almost eight out of 10 (78%) are still alive 10 or more years later. More than two thirds (65%) survive 20 years or more – all of which is really great.

    Looking after ourselves

    Ultimately, the best chance of successful treatment it’s vital to be breast aware. How often should we check? Every four weeks or so – there’s no right or wrong way. It’s all about looking and feeling regularly: in the bath or shower, when applying moisturizer, getting dressed – basically whatever suits you.

    Here’s how and what to look out for

    Check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone. See the doctor if you spot any of the following:

    • A change in size or shape
    • Redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
    • Discharge from the nipple without squeezing
    • A swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
    • A lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast
    • A change in skin texture e.g. puckering or dimpling (like orange peel)
    • A nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing position or shape
    • Constant pain in a breast or armpit

    Been diagnosed with breast cancer?

    For care, support and information call Breast Cancer Care’s Nurses free on 0808 800 6000 or visit

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