HOW TO BE #BREASTAWARE
So Brave seeks to educate and inform young women about the importance of breast cancer awareness. By teaching young women like you to be informed about what is normal about their bodies, we hope that together we can make a difference by being #Breastaware.
Everyone’s breasts look and feel different. You may have lumpy breasts, one breast larger than the other, breasts that are different shapes, or one or both nipples that are pulled in (inverted), which can be there from birth or happen when the breasts are developing.
Become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts. There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts for any changes. Try to get used to looking at and feeling your breasts regularly. You can do this in the bath or shower, when you use body lotion, or when you get dressed. Just decide what you are comfortable with and what suits you best.
Also set a reminder to check your breasts, at So Brave we encourage all women to #feelitonthefifth
– Lumps: in the breast tissue, in the arm pits or around the collar bones, may be tender, painfree, round, flat, irregular, rough, smooth, stuck in place or movable.
– Skin changes: redness, rash, heat, thickening, dimpling, puckering/pulling on movement, including skin around the breasts and in the arm pits.
– Nipple changes: crusting, bleeding or discharge from the nipple, finding the nipple is pulling inward (retracting) over time
– Others: changes in breast size or shape, persistent pain in the breast or armpit, even without other changes.
3. Follow Up
What does all this mean?
Imaging: Breast imaging can include mammogram (x-ray) ultrasound (sound waves) and MRI (the clearest most detailed type of breast picture taken using a large magnet).
Biopsy: A small piece of breast tissue being taken to investigate a breast change.
Screening: Imaging that is done regularly to detect a breast cancer before there are symptoms. Most women will start ‘Breast Screen’ at age 40-50, but women with a family history may need to start earlier.
Tips on seeing your doctor with a breast change
Knowing what your doctor might ask can improve your confidence and communication, helping them help you!
Take a friend or family member for support and to help you through the consult, especially if you are anxious.
Try to see a doctor you feel comfortable with, who you know takes your concerns seriously and communicates well.
Your doctor will want to know about the breast change & examine you:
What does it feel like to you? How long has it been there? Does it change with your period cycle? Have you had any breast problems or surgery in the past?
Where is it? – Hint: mark it with a pen at home if it is hard to find, and remember what position you find it in.
Tell them your family breast/ovarian cancer history:
Draw a family tree and think about mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts and cousins. Which had what cancer? What age did they get it? Did they die from it? If in doubt, bring what information you have!
What if the doctor can’t find the change? Ask for imaging!
We have learnt that women can find changes in their breasts much earlier than doctors can. We know our bodies, what is normal for us, and have feeling from the breast itself, not just from our fingers feeling the change. Imaging is much more sensitive & reliable than clinical examination by a doctor. If you have found a change that is present for 4 weeks or longer, it is entirely reasonable to ask for imaging if your doctor hasn’t offered this option to you.
Breasts naturally change quite a lot during pregnancy, but it is important to keep up with your own breast checks. Pregnancy is a time of high oestrogen which can feed the growth of some types of breast cancer in young women. If you have concerns, you can ask your GP for an ultrasound without any harm to your baby.
Breast feeding mothers can get mastitis, a painful infection of breast tissue that needs treatment with antibiotics. If you have had mastitis and the antibiotics have not worked, ask your doctor for an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis, as you could have a pocket of infection that needs specialist treatment, or you could have a less common ‘inflammatory breast cancer” that can look like mastitis.
Arrange Follow Up:
It is important to make arrangements with your doctor to follow up on breast changes that have been found to be non-cancerous on imaging. You might need to consider more imaging in 3, 6 or 12 months, to make sure everything is still healthy and normal. If you notice more changes earlier than planned follow up, return to your GP earlier!
BREAST CANCER IS THE MOST COMMONLY DIAGNOSED CANCER IN WOMEN AGED 20-39. FIGHT IT!
Early detection of breast cancer increases the chances of successful treatment and ultimately, survival.
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