October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so I thought I’d do a little post on breast cancer and the importance of checking yourself and not freaking out if you do find something.
Breast cancer is something that we’re all aware of nowadays, partly because of the great awareness work carried out by charities like the Breast Cancer Campaign and their Wear It Pink campaign and the Breast Cancer Care charity.
Even though we’re all aware of breast cancer, the stats are still quite sobering:
- Every year nearly 55,000 people are diagnosed in the UK. That’s the equivalent of 150 people every day or one person every 10 minutes.
- 1 in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
- Nearly 12,000 people die from breast cancer in the UK every year.
- Breast cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in women in the UK, after lung cancer.
- Of adults aged between 25-49, breast cancer accounts for 45% of all female cancers.
- There are an estimated 550,000 people living in the UK today who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer.
The number of people being diagnosed with breast cancer is increasing, but the good news is survival rates are improving. This is probably because of more targeted treatments, earlier detection and better breast awareness.
Eeek, a mouse!!
A couple of years ago I found a lump in my breast. At first I panicked and cried a bit, but then immediately hot-footed it to the doctors and was quickly referred to have it properly checked out. An ultrasound and needle biopsy later they diagnosed it as a fibroadenoma – otherwise known as a “breast mouse“. A fibroadenoma is a completely benign lump that can move about (sounds a bit gross – it only moves a bit. It’s just not solidly fixed in place).
My fibroadenoma lump was quite large and uncomfortable, so I opted to have it surgically removed. It was a simple operation and involved an overnight in hospital, but only because the operation took place late afternoon. If it had been in the morning then I think I would have gone home later that day.
The scar has pretty much gone now and was really small in the first place. I took a couple of days off work (but only because my boss said I should – not because the doctors said I needed to!). So it really was quite simple, not painful and a big relief that it wasn’t anything more serious.
I was 27, maybe 28 when this happened. Young enough to feel pretty confident that it wasn’t cancer, but girls in their 20’s do still get diagnosed with breast cancer.
Please check yourself regularly
The scary thing was, when I found the lump (in the shower one day), it was already huge. I couldn’t believe that I had something in my boob that was so big that neither my husband (although he was my boyfriend at the time) nor myself had found already.
But then, I never checked myself… so why would I have found it? Plus breasts can sometimes be a bit lumpy and blobby, depending on the time of the month and just how your breasts feel in general.
So it’s really important to get to know your breasts. Check them on a regular basis – get to know the normal lumps and bumps. Then if anything strange does start to happen you’ll know as soon as possible.
Checking your breasts is horrible. If anything it scares me more now than before. I do have to force myself to do it – only because I’m scared of what I might find. But I can tell you now, if there is anything to find I’d rather find it sooner rather than later. Like most cancers, the sooner you catch it the better your chances are.
So many women survive breast cancer now. The odds really are in your favour. But you need to be proactive in your own healthcare. Don’t assume it won’t happen to you. And if you do find a lump, don’t assume it’s a death sentence. There’s a good chance it might not be cancer and even if it is, there’s so much that can be done nowadays.