You’ve bought the pink products, you’ve worn your pin and you’ve made your donation. But have you checked your breasts?
It’s all very well to immerse yourself in raising funds every October when Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolls around, but if you’re not checking your own breasts regularly, there’s a possibility your generosity might be overstepped by the disease that affects more than 3,000 women in New Zealand each year.
The solution is simple. The earlier it is detected, the higher the chance of survival. While mammograms are important, it’s paramount to perform your own examinations and track any changes that arise. No two pairs are the same and there’s no minimum age as to when you should start routine checking. Getting in the habit of undergoing a monthly breast exam is a fundamental step in detecting the disease early.
Not sure where to start? Let the Breast Cancer Foundation’s TLC (Touch, Look, Check) concept guide you by following this easy 5-step process.
How to perform a breast exam:
- The best time to perform a check is one week to ten days after your period finishes – during the middle of your cycle.
- Look at your breasts in the mirror. Seems obvious, but sometimes one of the easiest ways to see if something is amiss is visually – this can include the size of your breasts, the shape, or any unusual rashes or discolouration.
- Touch both boobs around all areas. You’re feeling for any new lumps, or tissue thickening – the more you do this, the more familiar you’ll get with each and every little bump and lump, and it will be much easier to detect new ones!
- Don’t forget to feel under the armpits as well – breast tissue isn’t just confined to the breast area.
- If anything feels weird – or different – or you’re just feeling worried in general, be sure to check any changes with a doctor.
It’s not complicated but it improves your chances of early detection hugely.
The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation chief executive, Evangelia Henderson, says “we know early detection improves survival, and that women whose cancer is more advanced at diagnosis are more likely to die of their disease. When you check your breasts regularly, you get to know what’s normal for you, so you’re more alert to changes that could indicate breast cancer.”
When you check your breasts regularly, you get to know what’s normal for you, so you’re more alert to changes that could indicate breast cancer.
Screening also plays a crucial role in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer. The national screening programme, BreastScreen Aotearoa, provides free mammograms every two years for women aged 45-69. It is recommended to begin your monthly self-examinations from the age of 20. To find out more about taking care of your breasts, understanding risk factors and inherited risk, visit the official website for the Breast Cancer Foundation.