Breast Cancer: Know your normal
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The benefits of screening are the chances of finding breast cancer early. The earlier that breast cancer is found, the more likely it is to respond successfully to treatment (Breast Cancer Now). However, screening is only once every three years. Self-checking, and being aware of what is ‘normal’ for our own body, is just as important.
Finding a lump as you palpate your breasts is a scary thing. It happened to me several years ago. The urge for denial was great. Eventually I mentioned it to my husband as we lay side by side in the night, and guided his hand to the place that I already felt was separate to me. The GP’s was the next hand to touch this area, making no comment other than to assure me of the ‘fast track’ process in place for this occurrence. With husband and daughter to hold my cold hands, we sat in the hospital waiting room, anxious to be called through. The details of those weeks are dimmed now, consigned to the unwanted memory box – more hands, another mammogram, fine needle aspiration (boy, that hurts!), the wait until the all clear.
I have friends and colleagues who have been less fortunate, but still fortunate. Losing one breast, or both breasts; 25 or 55, age irrelevant; having reconstruction or deciding against; being asked to make choices, choices, choices. They have all been female, but males also need to be aware, to be vigilant. 1 in 100 breast cancer cases in the UK are males (Cancer Research UK).
Statistics - good and bad
Every 45 minutes someone dies from breast cancer in the UK (Breast Cancer Now). The good news is that of the over 55,000 people who get breast cancer, 76% survive breast cancer for ten years or more. (Cancer Research UK)
Catching breast cancer in its early stages is attributed to higher survival rates although, as with many issues relating to cancer, this does not appear to be completely clear-cut. However, for the majority of us the advice to self-check and to have a mammogram regularly appears to be the best course of action. The NHS website emphasizes that there is a good chance of recovery if breast cancer is detected early.
We can all take responsibility for monitoring our own ongoing health status by checking our breasts, both men and women, on a regular basis. Coppafeel even offers the opportunity to sign up for a monthly reminder.
And by going to have a mammogram when that appointment letter comes through, cold and unpleasant as the process often is, we are taking control. Let’s not pretend that it’s any fun, but like the fine needle aspiration it is over quickly.
There are lots of self-check guides available online, or in leaflets, or on posters. I have listed links to some online guides for you to check out. And here’s a quick C.L.E.A.R. reminder:
Your breasts can feel different at different times of the month, so become familiar with them
Look & Feel
Get to know what is normal for you by looking and touching
Wherever there is fatty breast tissue, you need to check – this includes under your armpits & up as high as your collarbones
Ask a professional
If in any doubt, get yourself checked out. You can ask for a female GP if you prefer someone of the same sex
Remember to check regularly & to act quickly if you have any concerns
Use your Dru Yoga skills
Have some fun with your home yoga practice and self-check at the same time – how about a Warrior (Virabhadrasana) pose that incorporates a feel under the arms, or a naked yoga session in front of the mirror to check breast tissue moves freely? Lying down preparing for Relaxation (Savasana) is a great opportunity to check the fatty tissue.
Or maybe you’re at the stage of going for tests, and want to use some of the breathing techniques to calm your nerves? Think about the beneficial aspects of extending the exhale, or quietly practice the Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana) – no need to physically close one nostril, simply visualize it.
Founder of DRUVA
Breast cancer statistics https://www.wearitpink.org/about/about-breast-cancer-now, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer, Self-check guide https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam
Analysis of data concerning early vs. late detection
Breast check reminder https://coppafeel.org/remind-me/remind-me-sms/,