Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Why and how should Sussex students check their breasts?

Not just one for the girls! Here’s your step-by-step guide

October, a month that seems to be solely associated with Halloween on social media, is actually also the month of Breast Cancer Awareness. We can all recognise the importance of shining a light on this topic, as well as the seriousness of the disease. So, why don’t we talk about the gravity of regularly checking our own bodies enough? The National Breast Cancer Foundation actually recommends breast self-examinations to be done at least once a month. In fact, Johns Hopkins Medical center states: “Forty per cent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump.”

Shockingly, according to Cancer Research UK, one in seven females in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and it is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in females. But don’t be fooled by misconceptions; 350 males are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Therefore, it’s just as important for men to check themselves for lumps too.

Credit: @breastcancernow on Instagram

It is well known that catching these diseases in their early stages is crucial for chances of survival. That’s why The Sussex Tab has provided you with an illustrated, step-by-step guide to help you understand what signs to look out for when performing your monthly self-examination.

Before we start, it’s important to note that everyone’s different, so by performing regular checks you will become attuned with your own body and recognise what is normal for you. Another thing to keep in mind is, for many women during menstruation, breasts and underarms can feel more tender. That being said, always get checked over by your GP if you find any causes for concern – it is likely nothing to worry about, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Grab yourself a mirror

Following VICE‘s guide for checking your breasts, stand in front of a mirror and raise both arms up. Check for any changes in the nipple and breast.

Put both hands on your hips and push your shoulders forward. Look for any other changes in the armpit, breast and collarbone.

VICE’s third suggestion is to roll the breast tissue with your fingers to feel for abnormalities, ensuring you cover the whole breast and underarm.

What to look out for

Lumps and thickening – some people have naturally lumpy breasts, however any new lumps or areas of thickness are a cause for concern.

Rashes or crusting- this could be on the nipple or around the breast.

Out of the ordinary pain in breast or armpit – pain can be normal as breasts are often tender, especially during menstruation, but if something doesn’t feel right be sure to address this immediately.

Nipple discharge – watch out for nipple discharge which appears without squeezing the breast.

Swelling – underarms and collarbones also contain breast tissue, so do not neglect these when checking the breasts.

Nipple changes – pay special attention to your nipples are inversions or changes in shape or direction could also be a cause for concern.

Credit: @breastcancernow on Instagram

This amount of information can definitely can feel overwhelming and even a bit scary, so you may want to read up little more or seek advice and help. There are multitudes of organisations, charities and helplines you can use for these purposes. Here are a few:

Coppafeel specialise in education on the importance of regular breast checks.

The NHS have a plethora of information on breast check methods, as well as access to a list of cancer support helplines and services in your local area by putting your postcode in here.

The National Cancer Foundation provides free educational guides on a range of topics like nutrition for cancer patients.

Cancer Research UK helps you learn how to reduce your risk of cancer through lifestyle changes, and gives tips for friends and family of cancer patients.

Breast Cancer Now have a helpline that you can use to ask questions, or simply to have a chat. Call them for free on 0808 800 6000: Monday to Friday – 9am-4pm, Saturdays – 9am-1pm. They also have a telephone interpreting service in over 240 languages to ensure everyone can contact them.

Macmillan can offer emotional, physical and financial help, as well as an abundance of information. They even have a whole section dedicated to breast cancer in men that you can access here.

These checks might seem unnecessary now, but a few minutes a month could very easily one day save your life. It is so easy to forget these signs, and raising awareness should not be reduced to once a year. So, show your support for Breast Cancer Awareness and spread the message.

All images credited to Khadija Hossain