When we think of self-care we tend to think of facials, yoga or taking a candlelit bath. But we should think about our health, too, and checking your breasts definitely needs to be on the list.
With Breast Cancer Awareness month upon us, there’s no better time to add checking your breasts to your self-care routine. A regular check could mean any abnormalities get picked up quickly and lead to a speedier diagnosis. “Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes and it could be when you’re getting
dressed, showering or putting on moisturiser,” says Addie Mitchell, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Now. “There’s no special way. It’s as simple as TLC: touch, look, check. And remember to check the whole breast and surrounding area including the upper chest and armpits.”
Breast cancer is the UK’s most common female cancer – around 55,000 women are diagnosed with it ever year and one in seven will develop the disease in their lifetime. Eight out of ten cases are diagnosed in women over 50, while only 4% of cases occur in women aged 39 or under. However, your age is no reason to delay those DIY checks.
Unfortunately, the last few months have seen a drop in the number of women going to their GPs with concerns about their breasts due to fears over Covid-19.
“NHS England figures from April showed that there was a 57% drop in the number of women being referred by a GP with suspected breast cancer at the peak of the pandemic compared with last April,” Addie says. “While the numbers are starting to recover, we’re still
some way from them returning to what we would normally expect.”
Experts think that the case of former Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding (above right), who in August told fans she had been diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, might help raise awareness of the need for self-checks.
“With increasing exposure and instant access to information and opinions through social media, the internet and video streaming, stories of celebrities affected by cancers will be heard more and be harder to ignore,” says Dr Daniel Vorobiof of Belong.Life, whose new app Belong – Beating Cancer Together aims to connect patients going through the same treatments and experiences. “Every breast cancer story is important and that’s why it’s so relevant for celebrities to speak out because people gravitate towards them. They have the power to create awareness and action, which was proven when Kylie Minogue publicly discussed her breast cancer diagnosis. Studies published after showed a significant increase
in mammography bookings.”