Health

Beating Breast Cancer, One Self-Exam at a Time

Katie Brooker

By Katie Brooker

Oct 08, 2020


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Not a day, not a week, but an entire month. It’s not to be taken lightly, with some significant statistics that are on the increase every year. We know it’s not the most lovely topic to talk about, but the more aware you are, the more likely you are to detect it early — key to a good prognosis. 

women sitting on black chair
via @seemurray (Unsplash)

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease in which a malignant cell forms in the tissues of the breast. These usually multiply with the onset, hence the importance of early detection.

Breast cancer can occur in women and in men of any age. It is more likely to occur if you are over 40 and have a history of breast cancer in your family. Early detection is the best way to beat the cancer and this can be done through self examinations once a month. If in doubt, always see your doctor. If you’re over 40, an annual mammogram is also advised. 

Worldwide Statistics for 2020:

  • 30% of cancer diagnoses are breast cancer worldwide.
  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada.
  • Every 2 minutes, a woman in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • 42,170 (estimated) women will die from breast cancer this year in the US, however the chance of surviving over 5 years is now 99% in the US. 
  • 55,200 breast cancer diagnoses in the UK last year.
  • 200,000 Australians are living with breast cancer.

Get to know your breasts by doing regular monthly checks, or even every 2 weeks as they do tend to fluctuate over the course of the month. This is especially important when your breasts are changing a lot over a short period of time — when you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or weaning. The best way to quickly notice any changes, is to get to know your breasts very well. Even the slightest change is worth seeing your health care professional about. 

How to do a Self Breast Examination (SBE):

Step 1: When lying down, in the shower or sitting; raise the arm of the breast you are checking above your head. 

Step 2: Gently feel with all 4 tips of your fingers all over and around your breast. It’s recommended to do this in 3 ways:  

  • In a circular, spiral motion from the nipple all the way to the chest wall. 
  • From the outside in, in a star formation. 
  • Up and down from the armpit to between your breasts. 
breast exam illustration

Step 3: Take note of any of the following:  

  • Lumps
  • Bumps
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Discharge
  • Skin changes
  • Nipple changes
  • Thickening of the tissue or skin

Whilst there is a lot of research out there, they still don’t know what causes breast cancer. There are some factors which may put you at greater risk, however. 

Lifestyle risks (the ones you have control over): According to Breast Cancer Australia, these factors put you in a higher risk category, but by no means guarantee you will develop cancer. 

  • Regular alcohol intake
  • Being overweight or obese, especially post-menopause
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Not having children or breastfeeding (this one’s interesting for us mamas)  

According to Cancer Australia, having children and breastfeeding for an extended period of time decreases your risk of breast cancer by 7% for each child you’ve had. It is thought that the changes that occur in the breast during a full term pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding, make the cells less likely to become cancerous.

woman carrying baby while walking
via @thedakotacorbin (Unsplash)

Non-modifiable risk factors (sorry, these you cannot change): Having none of these risk factors doesn’t guarantee you won’t develop breast cancer, nor does having any or all of them mean you will. 

  • Being female
  • Aging — more specifically being over 50
  • Family history of breast cancer 
  • Presence of BRCA1 & BRCA2 genes 
  • First period before you’re 12 years old 
  • Late menopause
  • High breast density 

Contrary to some popular beliefs, these things have not been proven to cause breast cancer:  

  • Microwaves 
  • Mobile phones 
  • Deodorants 
  • Wired bras

Early detection is the best way to beat this cancer, which affects so many of us. Most people will know someone who has breast cancer. With the right information and tools to perform self breast exams, and the confidence to speak up about any changes, we can improve our odds against this silent enemy.

Disclaimer: Cake does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.


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