Did you know that almost half of UK women do not check their breasts regularly for signs of breast cancer? Seeing as the last week in June is World Wellbeing Week, Breast Cancer Now has made an urgent appeal to all women to make checking their breasts ‘a habit of a lifetime’.

World Wellbeing Week

Now in its third year, World Wellbeing Week takes place until 30th June 2021 and provides the opportunity for participants worldwide to promote an overall awareness for the wide-ranging aspects of wellbeing – including social, physical, emotional, financial, career, community and environmental wellbeing. With almost half (47%) of UK women failing to check their breasts on a regular basis according to Breast Cancer Now, now is the time to bring female wellbeing to the forefront.

A Cause for Concern

Alarmingly, one in 10 women have ‘never checked their breasts for new or unusual changes’, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the charity Breast Cancer Now. Meanwhile, a fifth (19%) of women check their breasts ‘once every six months or less’, while 13% do this ‘once a year or less’.

Asked what stops or prevents them from checking their breasts more regularly, almost half (46%) of women said they ‘forget’ – cause for deep concern when most cases of the disease are detected because women have spotted new or unusual changes to their breasts.

With breast cancer being the most common cancer in women in the UK, the charity is making an urgent plea to all women to make checking their breasts ‘a habit of a lifetime’, as early diagnosis can prevent women dying from the disease.

Breast Cancer Now suggests that women check their breasts at least every six weeks.

Further reasons that stop or prevent women who have not had breast cancer from checking their breasts include that a fifth (21%) are ‘not confident’ about what new or unusual changes they should be looking for. This is the case for almost a fifth (17%) of women aged 45-54, which is the age when breast cancer risk increases significantly for women.

However, the charity is encouraged that 87% of women who have not had breast cancer said they would visit a doctor if they noticed a new or unusual breast change to get this checked. Worryingly though, key reasons given by those who said they would not get checked were: ‘I feel awkward or embarrassed’, ‘I don’t want to bother my GP who is busy enough due to the COVID-19 pandemic’ and ‘I’m too busy’.

Manveet Basra, Head of Public Health and Wellbeing at Breast Cancer Now, said: “That one in ten women have never checked their breasts really shocked me. Breast checking is quick, easy, and can help detect any breast cancer early, giving treatment the best chance of working.

She added: “There’s no special technique – just get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you, so you can spot any new or unusual changes, and remember to check all parts of your breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone for changes. Making this part of your routine – such as in the shower or when you apply moisturiser – can help you to do it regularly. Encourage your female friends and family to do this too; please don’t feel embarrassed talking about this simple step that could save your life!”

“Most breast changes won’t be cancer; however, get any new or unusual breast changes checked by the GP right away. I can assure you COVID-19 doesn’t change this – surgeries have safety measures in place to minimise the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and your GP wants you to get any breast changes checked out without delay.”

Sarah Manley: Breast Cancer Survivor

Sarah Manley, a 47 year old teacher, would go months, sometimes years without checking her breasts for signs of breast cancer. In April 2019, she found a lump by chance and after originally putting off visiting her GP, was diagnosed with breast cancer six weeks later. Sarah had chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and finished radiotherapy in February this year but the national lockdown due to COVID-19 meant the length of her Herceptin treatment was halved.

Sarah said: “I never regularly checked my breasts and would go many months and sometimes even a year without checking. It didn’t ever occur to me that I should check. When I was in my thirties, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, but I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. I found the lump by pure chance. I was sat in bed eating a piece of toast one morning when a crumb landed on my chest and as I brushed it off I felt a pea-sized lump in my breast. I didn’t think it was anything sinister, so I left it for a few weeks but when my husband felt it he insisted I booked an appointment. I don’t think I would have gone to the doctors if it wasn’t for him, I was worried I would be wasting their time.”

“I was completely shocked to be told I had breast cancer. I’d always been so healthy. I was so glad I could start treatment quickly as I just wanted to get on with it. I felt that the sooner we could take action the better. My diagnosis has definitely changed my behaviour and checking my breasts is now part of my routine. Looking back, I was checking so infrequently that I didn’t know what was normal for me and wouldn’t have recognised a new change. Now every month I post a reminder on my social media about the importance of getting to know your breasts. If you do find an unusual change don’t put off making a call to your doctor like I did, it’s so important to get it checked out even during COVID-19.”

About Breast Cancer Now

Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s first comprehensive breast cancer charity, combining world-class research and life-changing care. The charity’s ambition is that by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live and be supported to live well.

You can visit breastcancernow.org for more information, or follow the charity on Twitter or Facebook. Anyone looking for support or information can call Breast Cancer Now free on 0808 800 6000.

Breast Cancer Now at PE1

The team at PE1’s Breast Cancer Now Shop are working hard to make up for the lost time during the pandemic; stocking the shelves with fantastic donations, helping fuel breast cancer research and care. The store is open every day Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sundays 10am to 4pm.

By donating your unwanted items to the Breast Cancer Now Shop, the money raised from sales will be turned into support for families affected by breast cancer.

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