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Breast Cancer – How Checking Could Save Your Life

Every October, people all over the world show their support for everyone affected by breast cancer. It might be one of the most touching of the cancer awareness months because breast cancer is now one of the most widely understood and studied cancers – because it’s also the most common. Around 55,000 women and 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and while there are treatments available, their effectiveness varies. The key to a good prognosis with any cancer is early detection, which is why this month we want to talk about checking yourself.

Why This Matters To Us

Breast cancer awareness month in particular is very close to our hearts at JFJ, mainly because it’s breast cancer that took our dear Jill before her time. She was an incredible woman, a beacon of positivity for everyone around her, and in September 2013 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was just 46, but by the time the cancer was found it had already spread to her lymph nodes and liver, making her diagnosis terminal. She passed away just 8 months later.

In those 8 short months, Jill wanted to make as much of an impact as possible – and big part of that was raising awareness about the importance of checking yourself regularly. Had she known just how much difference this simple step could make, her own cancer might have been detected much sooner. It’s one of the reasons our tagline is ‘choose, check, change’.

Be Breast Aware

This breast cancer awareness month, we want to challenge you to check yourself. One of the first signs women get of possible breast cancer is changes to their breasts, but if you don’t know what’s normal for you, then things can slip through the cracks.

So, the first thing you should be doing is checking your breasts throughout the month. Get to know them, and what’s normal for you. Remember that your breasts can and will change at different points of the month. For example, some women experience tender and lumpy breasts around the time of their period. If you’ve gone through menopause, then your breasts might feel softer and less lumpy. This is called being ‘breast aware’, and the NHS Breast Screening Programme has a 5-point plan for every woman to help then become breast aware:

  1. Know what’s normal for you

  2. Look at your breasts and feel them

  3. Know what changes to look for

  4. Report any changes to a GP without delay

  5. Attend a routine screening if you’re aged 50-70

How To Check Your Breasts

When you have 5 minutes of free time, find yourself a private space where you won’t be disturbed, and remove any clothes on your top half. Look at your breasts first, and see if there have been any visual changes. You can do this by looking down, or you can look in a mirror. Do this with your arms by your side and with your arms raised, so that you get a complete view.

Next, feel each breast and armpit, right up to your collarbone. Many people don’t realise that breast cancer can be present in your armpits, as breast tissue often spills into this area, and so they don’t check. The same goes for your collar bone – no matter how low your breasts hang, there is still breast tissue up to your collarbone, so you should check all the way up there too. Gently squeeze the flesh in your hands to detect any lumps or abnormal areas. Some people find this easiest to do in the shower or bath by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit. That way you get clean and checked!

It really is that simple. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, book an appointment with your GP to get it checked out, just in case.

Know What To Look Out For

Another important part of detecting cancer early is knowing what to look for when you’re checking your breasts. While every woman will experience changes due to age, pregnancy, breastfeeding and more, there are some changes that do need a professional check, just to make sure everything’s ok. In particular, you should see your GP if you notice any of the following changes:

  • A change in the size, outline or shape of your breast

  • A change in the look or feel of the skin on your breast, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness

  • A new lump, swelling, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that wasn’t there before

  • A discharge of fluid from either of your nipples

  • Any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently

  • A rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around your nipple

  • Any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it’s a new pain and doesn’t go away (although pain is only a symptom of breast cancer in rare cases)

If you’d like a more visual demonstration, you should check out this video of Dr Christian and comedian Sarah Millican talking through the process – it’s guaranteed to make you smile!

At Jill’s Fundraising Journey we provide free holidays for anyone affected by a cancer diagnosis – not just breast cancer. We also provide resources and support for those with cancer, or with a loved one battling cancer. If we can help ease your journey in any way, we will. If you would like to help us by raising money for Jill’s Fundraising Journey this month, we’d love to chat through your ideas! Stay safe, check yourself, and share this blog with someone you love.


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