#Pinktober: What do we really know about breast cancer?

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October: The month of Halloween, dark nights and bare trees. The clock goes back an hour and we all lavish the extra 60 minutes we get to stay in bed. However, October has been given a more important purpose- to spread awareness about breast cancer.

According to ONS (Office for National Statistics) 1 in 8 women in the UK will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Breast cancer is now the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 31% of all diagnosed cancers being breast cancer.

Women around the age of 60 and above are at the highest risk of being diagnosed with the illness. Although it is not unusual for younger women to also be diagnosed. Age-specific incidence rates rise steeply from around age 30-34, then rise further to age 65-69.

Although breast cancer is mainly associated with women – men are also diagnosed. Despite over 400 cases of male breast cancer each year in the UK- there is still a dangerous stigma that prevents men from speaking out about their illness.

A Breast Cancer Care employee stated that: “Men are less likely to attend support meetings and call helplines to talk about their issues.”

“It is very important for them not to feel alone, that is why the organisation provides one to one meetings which can be lead by former male patients who suffered from breast cancer as well.”

One of these services is called ‘Someone Like Me’, it helps people who have (or have had) primary breast cancer. As well as people undergoing genetic testing or who have received a genetic diagnosis.

It is open to partners, family, and friends of those affected, with an aim to provide mental support to all the affected. They offer practical tips, share their own experiences and offer general support.

But most importantly, they will listen.

Other ways you can search for information or help are helplines, web pages, conferences, communities or forums and your local GP.

How do you check-up yourself?

Since we don’t actually know what causes breast cancer, there aren’t yet any sufficient ways to prevent it. What we can do though, is to check our body for potential abnormalities. And here is the correct way to do it:

1. Stand in front of the mirror

This is to examine the entire front of your chest, from the collarbone to the breast, from the sternum to the arm.Look for changes in skin colour, change in colour and nipple shape, new inequalities anywhere in the chest or underarm area, redness and changes in skin pores.

2. Lie down

Start laying down on your back and lightly turn to the left hip, leaving your left hand in a better position to touch the right armpit and the outer edge of the breast. When you have this area checked, lie on your back and glimpse the inside of your breast. Do the same for the other breast.

3. Pressure down

Try to use a swirling motion to help you fill the entire area.
Alternate the pressure to strain the various layers of the breast. First, slightly flex and gradually increase the pressure.

4. Sit down

Finally, with the same circular motion, examine the area under your collarbones bones while sitting. It’s important to get to know what’s normal for you and what isn’t. It is normal if your breasts hurt from time to time, especially before your period is due, during a pregnancy or if you start taking new contraception.

How can you contribute?

Even though we are saying farewell to October – spreading awareness for breast cancer should be year round. The most effective way to contribute is through fundraising. There are various charities dedicated to easing the suffering of the families affected by this disease or research about breast cancer, e. g. Macmillan, Cancer Reseach UK.

You can visit their websites to see how to help the ones affected or contribute to funding their research:

Words by Michaela Bergerova,

Edited by Liam Gilliver

Alice is your lifestyle editor.

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