Think Pink

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and with cases of the disease up by a fifth it’s more important than ever to spot the early warning signs

This month the world turns pink and unites to raise awareness of breast cancer and help support those suffering with the disease. Thousands of fund-raising events and activities, large and small, corporate and private, will be going on across the country.

Finding out about breast cancer signs and symptoms can help you understand what breast changes to look out for. Everyone’s breasts are different, and your breasts can change with age and at different times of the month. It’s important to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel so it will be easier to spot if there are any unusual changes for you.

Picking up any abnormalities as early as possible is vital, which means it’s important that women self-examine regularly and know what to look for. Throughout a lifetime the levels of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone vary, causing women’s breasts to change.

For younger women, the best time to self-examine the breasts is about three to five days after the period starts because breasts are not as tender or lumpy at this time in the monthly cycle. Women who’ve gone through menopause should examine their breasts on the same day every month.

SELF-EXAMINE

To self-examine, place your right hand behind your head. With the middle fingers of your left hand, gently yet firmly press down using small motions to examine the entire right breast. Next, sit or stand. Feel your armpit, because breast tissue goes into that area. Gently squeeze the nipple, checking for discharge. Repeat the process on the left breast.

Then stand in front of a mirror with your arms by your side. Look at your breasts directly and in the mirror. Look for changes in skin texture, such as dimpling, puckering, indentations, or skin that looks like an orange peel. Also note the shape and outline of each breast. Check to see if the nipple turns inward. Do the same with your arms raised above your head.

CHANGES TO CHECK FOR

1. A lump on or around the breast. This may not be seen but might be felt either in the breast, upper chest or armpit.

2. Persistent lumpy area or unusual thickening of the breast tissue.

3. Any constant pain in part of the breast or armpit.

4. Change in size or shape of either of the breasts.

5. Redness or rash on the skin that looks like eczema.

6. Change in appearance or direction of the nipple on the breast.

7. Nipple discharge from the breast.

If you do spot any unusual changes to your breasts you should get them checked out by your doctor.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month runs from 1 to 31 October. To find out ways you can get involved in raising awareness and helping research, visit: wearitpink.org