This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve teamed up with the experts at CoppaFeel! to get everyone feeling their fantastics, because checking yourself regularly and knowing what’s normal for your own body is crucial so that you are able to notice any new or unusual changes early and speak to your GP. Most people already know to look out for a lump, but there are a range of other signs and symptoms that can indicate something to get checked out.
We asked Sophie Dopierala-Bull, Director of Education and Health Comms at CoppaFeel!, to lay bare exactly how, when, why and what you should be checking to keep your fantastics feeling...well, fantastic!
How to feel your fantastics
1: Know your normal: Everyone’s fantastics are different, so it’s important to know what’s normal for you. Making it part of your self-care routine means you will become more familiar and confident at spotting unusual changes early.
2: Look and Feel: Many symptoms you may only notice by having a look at your chest, so it is important you look and feel during checks. Your breast tissue extends up to your collarbone and under your armpit, so you should be checking the whole area.
3: Use whatever method works for you: This may involve lying down, lifting your arms up or using a mirror. Find a way that is comfortable for you, but remember to have a look and feel, paying special attention to your nipple.
4. If in doubt: get anything concerning checked out with your doctor.
Most people look for a lump when checking for breast cancer, but what are the other possible signs and symptoms?
Although a lump is the most known symptom, there are other changes you should be aware of too. These could be a sudden change to the size or shape of your boobs, changes to the skin texture such as puckering or dimpling, or any swelling in your armpit or around your collar bone. It is also important to pay attention to your nipple, is there any discharge, change in direction or inversion or a rash or crusting around the surrounding area? Breast pain alone is rarely a sign of breast cancer, however if you have any constant, unusual pain you may want to get checked too.
How often should you be checking your breasts?
At CoppaFeel! we recommend checking your boobs once a month, to make it part of your routine and to ensure you don’t leave it too long between checks. However, as long as you are doing it regularly, you could check more or less frequently than that. Checking regularly helps you to build confidence in knowing what is normal for you. It also means you will detect any unusual or concerning changes more quickly.
How does diagnosing breast cancer early help with treatment and recovery?
If breast cancer is found early, the treatment may be less invasive as the cancer cells are less developed. Treatment plans will be different for everyone, as it depends on the person and the stage and grade of the breast cancer. However, if caught in the early stages, there could be more choice of treatments, with chemotherapy not always being necessary. If breast cancer is diagnosed at stage 1, around 98% of women will survive for 5 years or more compared to only 26% when diagnosed at the later stage 4.*
If breast cancer is diagnosed at stage 1, around 98% of women will survive for 5 years or more compared to only 26% when diagnosed at the later stage 4
What should you do if you find a lump or any other irregularities in your breasts?
If you spot any unusual or concerning changes to your boobs, monitor them for a week and if they don’t disappear, book an appointment to see your doctor. There are lots of reasons why you may experience changes in your chest, especially during certain times of your life such as puberty or pregnancy. Most changes won’t be breast cancer but it is always important to get peace of mind and get checked out.
What can you expect from a doctor's appointment when screening for breast cancer?
You may feel apprehensive or embarrassed about talking to your doctor about your boobs, but be reassured they have seen it all before and want to help. The doctor will probably want to examine you, which may include the area under your armpits and up to your collarbone. It may be helpful to wear loose clothing or a separate top and bottoms. CoppaFeel! have some tips for what to expect at your doctor appointment on their website here.
Reminding or sharing information with friends and family members could be life-saving and only takes 5 minutes
What are some ways that we can positively support and encourage each other to talk more openly about breast cancer awareness?
Talking about boob checking and the importance of being breast aware is vital to ensure it is normalised. Reminding or sharing information with friends and family members could be life-saving and only takes 5 minutes. By talking about it more openly, it will encourage others to recognise it is an important part of self-care and help people to feel reassured boob checking is normal. On the CoppaFeel! Self-Checkout, we have videos from our community sharing their experiences of checking and top tips. You can take a look here to see how others check.
Find out more about how LOOKFANTASTIC are supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month.