Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Most of us know that October is an important month. Commonly referred to as ‘Pinktober’, this month is very much focused on breast cancer awareness.

Not only is it the most commonly occurring cancer in women (and the second most common cancer in the world), but 1 in 8 women are likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important for us to not only be aware of how to detect it, but also to understand the consequences and treatments for it.

To get a more comprehensive and professional understanding of breast cancer, Liv got in touch with Dr. Sana Kausar. She is both a specialist in Family Medicine at King’s College Hospital and an Aviation Medical Examiner, having acquired qualifications including MbChB, MRCGP, and DRCOG. Below is the key information that she shared with us.

How you can do a self-check-up

One of the most important things to be aware of is that you can carry out a self-examination at home to look for early signs of breast cancer. 90% of women can self-diagnose themselves through these breast self-examinations, and these can be done at any time! Just find a safe, personal space and follow these few simple steps:

  1. Raise your left arm to the back of your head and use your right hand to examine your left breast.
  2. Move your hand around your breast to feel for any lumps.
  3. Repeat this on the other breast.

Signs to watch out for, and when you should get checked

You can also look for visual signs. These can include:

  • irregularity of shape (such as elevation and asymmetry)
  • any nipple discharges
  • dimpling of the skin around that area.

Other common symptoms can include dense breast tissue, redness and swelling around the breast area, early onset of menstruation, and late menopause.

It’s also important to know when you need to get a check-up done. Whilst everyone should be proactive in monitoring their health, here the following guidelines on getting professional check-ups:

  1. 20 and above: Perform a BSE monthly.
  2. Age 29-39: Get a clinical examination every 3 years.
  3. 40 and above: Regular mammograms (every 1-2 years).

Steps for the future

It is difficult to know what the exact causes of breast cancer are, but the most common risk factors include excessive alcohol intake, the use of oral contraceptives, and heredity. Whilst you cannot control genetic factors, you CAN control regularly exercising, maintaining a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking habits.

To take further steps, you can also maintain a healthy diet – this has many added side benefits, such as preventing heart disease, diabetes and providing the right nutrition (make sure to include lots of fresh fruits and veggies!).

Remember that even if you are asymptomatic, getting regularly screened and clinically examined is essential in early detection and prevention.

Stay informed and stay healthy!