A few days ago, Julia Louis-Dreyfus revealed that she has breast cancer. The disease, it seems, doesn’t care about social standing, celebrity or wealth – if you get it, you get it. And if you miss the signs early on, it becomes an increasingly difficult battle to fight.
Despite the large numbers of women – including celebrities like Cynthia Nixon, Sheryl Crow and Christina Applegate – who have battled with breast cancer, very few of us actually know what symptoms to look out for. According to a worrying new survey, less than half of women know what changes to look out for. A quarter of us thinks that a lump is the only sign that can be detected without using medical equipment, while 60% of the 19,000 women surveyed by Avon said they’d be hesitant to seek medical advice for fear of embarrassment. When participants were asked to identify the 10 most common symptoms of breast cancer, just 2% were able to correctly name all 10. Many didn’t realise that lifestyle choices can affect how prone you are to the disease, with two-thirds being unaware that regular exercise can help protect against breast cancer, and that regular alcohol consumption is liked to creating a higher risk. More than 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, with one in eight women developing the disease at some point in their lifetime – making it the second most common cause of death for women. It also kills around 80 men a year. Signs of breast cancer to watch out for Women are advised to start checking their breasts in their 20s. A lump definitely isn’t the only thing to watch out for, but if you don’t know what else you need to be aware of, here’s a very simple guide: Change in breast size or shape Boobs are wonderful things that come in all shapes and sizes. But if yours starts to change outside your menstrual window or pregnancy, then it might be a warning sign. Keep checking them so you know what they look like regularly and are able to chart any changes. An inverted nipple Some people are born with inverted nipples…but if yours suddenly starts to go inwards or changes shape in any way, it might be worth having checked out. Redness, rashes or skin sores We all get rashes from time to time but if you develop one anywhere on the boob or around the nipple that won’t go away, visit your GP. Nipple discharge If liquid comes out of your nipple without squeezing it, get it checked. Indentation A dent of any size isn’t normal. Swelling under the armpit or collarbone Often you can get swelling under the armpit around your period but if it doesn’t go away when your period does, get it checked. Change in skin texture If the skin around your nipples become dimply or start to resemble orange peel, get it checked out. Constant pain Boobs can feel sore but they shouldn’t ache all the time. A growing vein Normally, you can’t see veins on your breasts so if one does become apparent and seems to be growing, head to you GP as it might be a sign of a tumour blocking a blood vessel. A lump It’s the most common sign but not the only one. If you can feel a lump on the inside (it doesn’t have to be visible), get it checked out. Make sure you…or your partner (as good a reason as any) regularly feel your boobs for any lumps. All pretty obvious stuff. But the key thing is that if
you see ANY CHANGES for the love of God, SEE YOUR DOCTOR. They’ve seen more tits than you’ve had hot dinners so if you’re embarrassed about getting them out, don’t be. It’s literally their job. ‘Early detection is crucial to fighting breast cancer, yet our survey found that women don’t know their risks or what signs to look for,’ says Sheri McCoy, chief executive of Avon. ‘We want to change this lack of knowledge by using the power of our global network of women – six million Avon representatives and more than 26,000 associates – and our breast cancer partners, to educate women.’