Let's play a game of DID YOU KNOW
Did you know that 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected from people who feel a lump themselves? So getting into the habit of doing this is SO IMPORTANT.
If you are lucky enough to still be in your youth having the time of your life, just know you are not immune to cancer. I promise I am not trying to scare you, fear is not anyone’s friend. I am trying to empower you to take control of your health because no one else is going to. Don’t forget that. Your health is up to you!
I was 36 when I was diagnosed. I was married with 2 young children and we had just relocated to our dream location. It came completely out of no-where. I am far from alone, I know women as young as 22 who have been diagnosed. It happens more than you would know. Triple Negative Breast Cancer specifically generally affects younger women and it is 3 times as aggressive as other kinds of breast cancer (yes there are lots). So the importance of early detection becomes even more critical.
Often lumps are just cysts as your doctor will more than likely tell you. But there is no certainty until the appropriate tests have been done. If you are below 40 you should ask for an ultrasound NOT a mammogram. Young people's breasts are generally quite dense and mammograms are not suitable. If you have implants you still need to follow all of the same steps below, however if you are old enough for a mammogram, be sure to tell the technologist that you have implants.
Self-checking around the same time each month is a great habit. My fav way to remember to do this is #feelitonthefirst. An amazing movement created by some amazing cancer thrivers I have the utmost respect for. http://feelitonthefirst.com/
Creating a habit that will embed itself in your memory (think of ‘pinch and a punch for the first day of the month’) is the best way to go. Follow my instagram page @support.your.girls for my monthly reminders or sign up to my mailing list! But I encourage you to do your own too. So set an alarm now for the first of every month for the rest of the year…I mean right now…I’ll wait….
Ok so your back and you have set your alarms, now you're ready to start!
So what do you do and what are you meant to look for?
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
Lumps in breast or armpit
Breast or nipple pain
Nipple retraction or inversion
Changes to the skins texture- redness, discolouring, scaling, shrinkage
Swelling in breast or arm
Localised feeling of warmth
Lymph node changes
START WITH VISUAL CHECKS
Stand in front of a mirror and suss out both of your amazing breasts/pecs checking visually for any of the above symptoms.
TIME TO GET TOUCHY FEELY
Ok so while your standing put your left hand on your waist, now roll that shoulder forward and reach into your underarm area and check for enlarged lymph nodes. These are small glands that will fill with fluid when you have an infection. An enlarged node would feel something like a corn kernel. Make sure you check that area just above and below the collarbone too. Now repeat this on the other side!
Using the pads of 3 or 4 fingers, move them in a circular motion from the outside of your breast/pecs all the way in. Experiment with pressures until you find something that feels right. Be sure to cover the whole breast/pec until you have reached your nipple. Yes you have to check your nipples too.
A trick I have found useful is not taking your hands off your breasts/pecs so you do not miss anywhere. Putting a naturally derived lotion on (chemicals are not our friends) will help your hand slide around.
YOU CAN DO THIS IN MULTIPLE POSITIONS
Some peopls find it easiest lying down flat on their backs to feel for any changes as it flattens the breast. Personally I like to do it in front of the mirror standing up, though I frequently do it in the shower with my boob loob. Performing a self-check in the shower can help, as your hand tends to glide over your skin easier and you are already washing your body.
Experiment with what works best for you. Regardless of which position you choose the motion is the same.
SO YOU HAVE FOUND SOMETHING- WTF NOW WHAT?
TRY NOT TO PANIC
Easier said than done right?! I remember this feeling all too well. But currently you don’t know what it is, so try as hard as you can to not freak out. Sure it may be cancer, chances are it’s a benign breast condition but either way you are going to have to wait and see.
GET YOUR ARSE TO THE DOCTOR ASAP
I made an appt literally the next day. Do not wait, this is extremely important.
As I mentioned earlier, you should be getting a referral for an ultrasound if you are below 40. Do NOT leave that doctors office without a referral. If you think you will feel uncomfortable saying it to the doc, then take someone with you who can. This needs to happen.
Remember your doctor is NOT a breast specialist, so if he/she says it’s nothing, do not take comfort in that, you need to demand further testing.
KNOW WHAT YOU NEED
Are you someone that needs or wants emotional support? Well now is the time to reach out to a close friend or loved one as even the testing can be emotionally challenging. Having someone who you can talk to about your anxieties or any concerns. Or someone to drive you to your appts, to check in with you or for you to call directly after can really help in this unsettling time.
Generally speaking your doc will send you off for an ultrasound or mammogram depending on your age. From there you will have your tests done and the results will be sent back to them. You will require another appt to go over them.
In my case I had ‘suspicious cells’, so there was something there they wanted to test further so they sent me off for a biopsy.
I went to have my biopsy which was uncomfortable but in my case was not too bad. Unpleasant but not painful.
THE WAITING GAME
I’m going to give you a red-hot tip here, waiting for results SUCKS, and I’d actually go as far as calling it a form of torture. I decided to occupy myself a lot while I was waiting for results by getting out and doing things to keep my mind busy. Being in my head was not productive in this time. Either way you will enjoy getting out and about, or if you were like me and you got bad news, it was kind of a last hurrah for what your life used to look like before cancer.
All my love