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.
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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.)
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.