Why self-checking your breasts is now more important than ever

Image of hands clutching next to a breast cancer ribbon

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in the UK. The aim of the event is to educate the public about breast cancer prevention. This year Breast Cancer UK are focusing on helping individuals build resilience and take control of their own health.

How can I take control of my health?

The NHS Breast Screening Programme has five suggestions for being more breast aware. These are:
1. Knowing what’s normal for you
2. Looking at your breasts and feeling them
3. Knowing what changes to look for
4. Reporting any changes without delay
5. Attending routine screening if you’re over 50

How do I check my breasts?

You don’t need any special training to examine your breasts. Make sure you check the whole breast area, including your armpits and up to your collarbone.

Breast Cancer Now suggests using their helpful acronym – TLC: Touch Look Check.
• T stands for Touching your breasts to see if you can you feel anything different
• L stands for Looking for changes to see if anything seems unusual
• C stands for Checking any changes you are concerned about with your GP

What changes should I look out for?

You should look out for any of the following changes:
• A new lump or swelling in the breast, chest or armpit
• A change in the look or feel of the skin
• A change in colour, including redness or inflammation
• A change to the nipple position
• A rash on or around the nipple
• Any unusual nipple discharge
• Any change in size, outline or shape of the breast

If you have concerns about these, or any other changes, you should always contact your GP.

Image of a woman doing a breast self-exam

Why is this so important now?

In March 2020, breast screening programmes across the UK were paused to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading and to free up emergency resources for the NHS. Breast Cancer Now estimates that almost 1 million women have missed their mammograms as a result.

The breast screening programme is now being restarted. However, there is a backlog of patients to work through and the number of appointments has been reduced to accommodate social distancing measures.

We act for cancer patients who have experienced delayed diagnosis, due to negligence. The mammograms delayed due to Covid-19 are unlikely to be negligent, as this was necessary to reduce the risk posed by the pandemic.

That said, early detection is crucial for the best chance of recovering from breast cancer. Whilst the NHS Breast Screening Programme begins to work through its backlog, individuals can help themselves by Touching, Looking and Checking.

If in doubt, always contact your GP. Self-referral can save lives and, arguably, it is more important now than ever.

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