Breast Cancer Awareness Month is firmly behind us for another year, but checking your breasts is a good habit to keep all year-round.
Worrying new figures have revealed that almost half of all women in Scotland (45 per cent) are not regularly checking themselves for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
The research, carried out by Breast Cancer Now, highlighted that the main reason that more women aren’t checking once a month is simply because they forget (43 per cent).
Furthermore, the survey also reveals that a significant proportion of people remain unsure of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, with 11 per cent of respondents saying that they don’t check their breasts more often because they don’t know what to look for.
Every year, around 4,600 women in Scotland are diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 1,000 will sadly lose their lives to the disease.
Around two-thirds of breast cancer cases are found by women noticing unusual changes to a breast or the surrounding area and checking it with their doctor.
The earlier that breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment – with patients estimated to be five times more likely to survive if the disease is caught at its earliest stage.
These figures come just weeks after the news that the number of women dying from breast cancer each year in the UK is set to rise within four years – as a result of increasing incidence, largely due to the UK’s ageing population and the rise in obesity levels.
Being aware of what is normal for you, and spotting any unusual changes to your breasts, could save your life.
Everyone’s breasts are different, and they can change with age and at different times of the month. It’s important to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel so it will be easier to spot if there are any unusual changes.
Most changes are nothing to worry about but if you do spot anything that looks or feels different you should get it checked out by your doctor.
We have a very effective breast screening programme in Scotland but even if you’ve recently had a mammogram, it is still vital that you check your breasts and take action if you spot anything out of the ordinary for you.
There’s no special technique to checking – after all, nobody knows your body like you do.
But Breast Cancer Now’s Touch, Look, Check guide helps women know the signs and symptoms to look out for.
These include a lump that may not be seen, but might be felt; changes to the size or shape of your breast; changes to skin texture, such as dimpling or puckering; colour change, like redness or inflammation; changes to nipples, for example one of them might be inverted (turned in) when it normally points out; nipple discharge; or rash or crusting on or around the nipple.
We know that most people want to be more breast aware but that the biggest challenge for many people remains how to get into a habit of regularly checking their breasts for changes.
Breast Cancer Now has created the Breast Check Now app to help women set a checking plan that fits in with their lifestyle and to create reminders that work for them. You can download the free app by searching Breast Check Now in Google Play or the App Store.
Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes – and it means you’ll notice any unusual changes as early as possible.
It doesn’t matter whether you do it when you are in the shower, while you’re waiting for your toast to pop up, or even while you are watching TV. We must encourage more women in Scotland to give themselves some TLC (Touch Look Check).
To find out more, and also a handy app download button to click, visit www.breastcancernow.org/get-involved/breast-check-now
Eluned Hughes, head of public health and information for Breast Cancer Now.