October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it’s really important that we all get in the habit of checking for lumps, bumps and any strange squidgy bits regularly. And not just the ladies – although rare, breast cancer CAN and DOES affect men too, usually indicated by a lump or swelling in the breast area.
It’s not hard to do and you don’t need any special training, just a bit of TLC:
Make sure you check the whole of your chest area – your breasts, up to the collarbone, down across your sternum/breast bone and out into your armpits. Whilst pain and tenderness doesn’t usually indicate anything nasty, look out for any persistent sore, tender spots.
What are you looking out for?
You’re looking for anything different in feel and/or appearance – lumps or swellings, puckering or dimpling of the skin, discolouration or reddening and inflammation, nipple changes, oozing or discharge, changes in shape or size of breast… Basically, if they’re different from usual, get them checked out!!!
Get used to how they feel at different times of the month too as they may change with our monthly cycle – sometimes a bit more puffy and bloated, sometimes tender, sometimes a bit more lumpy – and they change with age too. Just get used to how yours feel by feeling them regularly – at least each week – and note any differences or changes.
Click here for more advice and information.
And then what?
If you notice any changes or find anything abnormal, it's really important to make an appointment to see your GP ASAP - they will probably examine your breasts and may refer you on for further checks at the breast clinic - not because you've definitely got breast cancer, but they just need to get further checks done.
You can always request to see a female doctor, and you're able to ask for a nurse to sit in with you - or can take a friend or family member if you're more comfortable with that. Just please, don't ignore it!
(And just to reassure you, it’s really not too scary. I’ve got a family history of breast cancer (they’re all good, thank goodness), so I get prodded, poked and scanned every so often. It’s a bit weird and a bit squeezy at times, but it’s definitely worth checking yourself regularly, and being checked out if necessary.)
Today is World Menopause Day – an annual event that aims to raise awareness of the menopause and the effects of the menopause on our health and wellbeing.
Menopause is a natural part of ageing, but it can be difficult to deal with.
Many women go through menopause and experience symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats, mood swings, anxiety or depression. One of the often common, but overlooked, symptoms are generalised aches and pains – something that we see every day in clinic.
Not all women will have the same symptoms – some might not even notice them at all – whereas others find them crippling and hugely impactful. This makes it hard for many women to know if their symptoms are down to menopause.
Why does menopause occur?
Oestrogen is a hormone mainly produced in the ovaries and is responsible for controlling many functions in the body including the production of an egg each month (ovulation). As a woman gets older, their store of eggs in the ovaries naturally declines. Menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing eggs and your body’s oestrogen levels fall. As a result, there are many changes that can occur to the body including no longer having periods and the symptoms we associate with the menopause.
There are many symptoms associated with the menopause, usually the result of hormone imbalance and lack of oestrogen. These include: hot flushes, joint aches and muscle pains, weight gain, depression and anxiety, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, night sweats, low mood, low libido, headaches, low energy, disrupted periods, painful sex, brain fog – but there are many more!
The focus for World Menopause Day 2021 is bone health. Raising awareness of the menopause and its associated symptoms encourages early diagnosis and treatment of related conditions such as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis (and osteopenia) is a reduction in bone density which often affects postmenopausal woman more than others in the population due to the lower bone density levels after years without periods. There are many ways that you can keep your bones healthy and strong - regular exercise and activity is hugely important and also helps prevent falls and resultant breaks and fractures.
Raising awareness of the menopause gives people who are experiencing any form of discomfort during this time a chance to speak openly about their experiences while raising awareness among friends, family members, colleagues.
After all, it’s something that will affect pretty much every single woman on earth!
For more information, visit The British Menopause Society or chat things through with Elisabeth in clinic.
Elisabeth Angier, DC, is an experienced chiropractor with over 20 years' in clinical practice. She writes about hints and tips she gives to patients, and shares some of the wisdom and life experiences she has learned over the years.