Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I have become very breast aware and am anxious that I should know how to advise my daughters so that their risk of this horrible disease is minimized. So, whatever your age, size or shape it is so important to take care of your breast mammogrambreasts. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. It affects men as well as women. So it is important to look after your breasts by being breast aware. This means getting to know how your breasts look and feel, so you know what is normal for you. You will then be more confident about noticing any unusual changes.

Before my breast cancer diagnosis, I did not check my breasts. I did not know I should. I know now this was a big mistake. Try to get used to looking at and feeling your breasts regularly. You can do this easily in the bath or shower or when you get dressed. Check all parts of your breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone.

breast dischargeIt will not surprise you to know that before I was told I had breast cancer, I did not know what changes to look for – many of us don’t. Make sure you know what your own breasts feel like. Everyone’s look and feel different, so when yo check your breasts, be aware of any changes that are different for you.

This might be a change in size or shape; redness or a rash on the skin or around the nipple or lumps or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue. Alternatively, you might become aware of  change in skin texture such as puckeringbreast dimpling or dimpling like orange peel. I found a discharge from my right nipple, but I did not recognise this as a sign of breast cancer. Other changes might be swelling in the armpit or around your collarbone. Be aware if your nipple becomes inverted when it is not usually so or changes its position or shape in another way; you may also have constant pain in your breast or armpit.

If you notice any change in your breasts go to see your GP as soon as possible. Most changes are benign, but if you are struck by breast cancer, give the doctors a chance to help you by going to see them as early as possible.

My breast cancer was discovered as the result of a breast screening appointment arranged by my GP. Breast screening, or mammography as it is known, is an X-ray examination of the breasts. For me, it helped to detect breast cancer before I was aware of any signs or symptoms. The sooner the breast cancer is detected and diagnosed, the more effective treatment will be and the more likely you are to have a more satisfactory outcome.

Valerie Penny


Man or Woman: Breast Cancer Could Happen To You

invasive_lobular_carcinoma[2]_tcm8-79021  You have to appreciate the mind set. It couldn’t happen to me…………  I could not be one of those statistics. There was no question of me suffering breast cancer. So when I was sent an appointment for a mammogram, I was more concerned about the convenience of the time slot; the embarrassment factor of getting my tits out and the pain and indignity of the process. At no time did I consider what a remarkable machine has been developed and what skilled people interpret the results. It never occurred to me that this could be a significant event.

When you have a mammogram, a skilled technologist positions and compresses your breast between two clear plates. The plates are attached to a highly specialized camera, which takes two x-rays of the breast from two directions. Then the technologist repeats the technique on the opposite breast. For some women, more than two pictures may be needed to include as much tissue as possible.

Mammography can be painful for some women, but for most it is just mildly uncomfortable, and the sensation lasts for just a few seconds. Compressing the breast is necessary to flatten and reduce the thickness of the breast. The x-ray beam should penetrate as few layers of overlapping tissues as possible. From start to finish, the entire procedure takes about 20 minutes. A diagnostic mammogram generally takes more time than a screening mammogram because it takes more pictures from more angles.  mammogram

So, having rearranged the date and time to one that suited me, I was the last appointment in the mobile breast screening unit on 22 March. I was greeted with a smile and made to feel as comfortable as possible before the screening began. While the unit was effectively a modified caravan in a health centre car park, the female radiographers could not have been more courteous or professional.

This is not a dignified process. It is uncomfortable. However, it is worth swallowing your pride, put aside your embarrassment and shame, because, you see, those suffering from breast cancer are not statistics. It could, and did, happen to me: in fact, whether you are a man or a woman, it could even happen to you.

Valerie Penny

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