One in ten women in Ireland will get breast cancer in their lifetime, that means in any senior ladies game three of the players on the pitch are likely to experience the condition over the course of their lives.
Breast awareness means knowing your own breasts and being aware of what changes are normal for you. You should get to know your breasts and be conscious of how they look and feel. If you know what is normal for you then it will be easier to detect a change.
- Appearance – a change in size or outline of either breast, especially those caused by arm movement. Any puckering, dimpling or redness of the skin. Veins that stand out more than usual
- Feelings – pain or discomfort in one part of either breast or in your armpit particularly if new and persistent
- Lumps – any lumps or thickening in either breast that feels different from the other breast. Any swelling or lumps under your armpit or around your collarbone
- Nipple change – a nipple that has become pulled in, changed shape or shows signs of any discharge, bleeding, rash or crusted, flaky skin
If you do notice an unusual change in your breast this does not necessarily mean that you have breast cancer, but it is important to get checked by your GP.
How to check your breasts
Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes and will help you get to know your own body. You will be aware of what is normal for you which will help you spot any changes early.
- When to check – a week after your monthly period, or if you no longer have a period then check on a set day each month. If you are breastfeeding, then you should check on a set day each month after a feed.
- Look – look at your breasts in the mirror with your arms by your side, then look at your breasts with your arms raised up behind your head. Lean forward with your hands on your hips and look again.
- Feel – feel each breast and armpit and up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.
To help you check your breasts Pretty n Pink have developed a waterproof shower card for keeping in the bathroom to act as a reference and reminder.
Further information on checking your breasts can be found on the NHS website.
The Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme
The NI Breast Screening Programme is run by the Public Health Agency and invites women between the ages of 50-69 to attend for screening by mammography every three years. These mammograms are free of charge and may take place at either a screening centre or a mobile unit across Northern Ireland. A screening appointment usually takes around 30 minutes. Women aged 70 and over will not routinely be invited for screening but can still request to be seen, and you can do this by contacting your GP or local screening office.
You and your GP should receive the results of your mammogram in writing within two weeks.
Further information on the screening programme can be found by visiting the HSCNI website.
It is important to remember that breast cancer can develop at any time. For women who fall outside the age bracket for screening and for those in between screenings it is important to be aware of possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Carry out regular breast self-examinations and report any changes to your GP without delay.
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