Written by: Jessy, Titty City Founder.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month might be behind us, but we think it’s crucial to be breast health aware all year long.
Breast cancer is currently the most common cancer globally, and making yourself familiar with your breasts, and what’s normal for you is one of the best ways to stay on top of your breast health.
In this article, we’re going to look at how and when to check your boobs, when you should start getting screened, what to do if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, and also how to support a loved one that was recently diagnosed.
WHEN AND HOW TO CHECK YOUR BOOBS
How well do you know your boobs?
To keep them healthy, it’s a good idea to get really friendly with them! That means checking them regularly the right way. Once you’ve got the hang of how to check your breasts, you’ll start to understand what feels normal and what might need checking out with your doctor.
It’s important to remember that all breasts are unique. Breast tissue can feel lumpy and textured, and this can change during your menstrual cycle and even throughout your life. That’s why it’s best to feel your boobs around the same time every month. We like to do it on the first of the month, so it’s nice and easy to remember.
Before we get started on how to check your breasts, here are a few signs to watch out for. But remember, even if you notice one or more of these signs, it doesn’t always mean there is something to worry about. However, if you have any concerns at all, make sure you speak to your doctor so they can check you as well.
Signs to watch out for:
- Unusual changes in the size or shape of your breasts
- Changes to the skin such as puckering or dimpling
- Changes to your nipples or nipple area (red, inflamed, inverted, etc.)
- A lump or swelling in your breast, chest, or armpit
- Localized pain or discomfort in your breast, chest, or underarm that’s present most of the time
- Crusting around your nipple
- Discharge leaking from your nipple
9 out of 10 lumps found are non-cancerous, and the earlier cancerous breast lumps are treated, the better. Now you know the signs to look out for, let’s look at how to check your beautiful boobs.
CHECKING YOUR BREASTS
First of all, make yourself comfortable. You can check your breasts standing, sitting, lying down, or even in the shower. When you check your boobs, it’s important to remember that you need to check the WHOLE breast area, which includes your upper chest and under your arms.
Before you start feeling them, look in a mirror and get familiar with how your boobies look. Check them with your arms down and raised. If your breasts are on the larger size, lift each one up and check them underneath and on all sides.
Once you’ve gotten up close and personal with your boobs, it’s time to examine them. Use medium to firm pressure (but not so hard that it hurts) and with the pads of your fingers massage in a spiral motion starting from your nipples. Go all around your breast, up to your collarbone and around the sides to underneath your arms. Switch sides and repeat!
ALL ABOUT MAMMOGRAMS
A big part of being breast-aware is getting to know your boobies, and what’s “normal” for you.
Checking your breasts monthly and having regular breast screenings (or mammograms) is the best way to ensure your boobs are happy and healthy.
We know a lot of women might feel nervous about mammograms, including what they do, if they hurt, and how often they’re needed. Worry not! We’re here to break down everything you need to know about mammograms and how often you need to get your Pretty Titties screened.
Mammograms are basically x-rays for your breasts. They can detect tumors (both cancerous and non-cancerous) that are too small to feel, and can even catch some breast cancers early, making them easier to treat.
The American Cancer Association recommends that women should be given the choice to get an annual breast screening once they turn 40. If you are seen as having a higher risk of developing cancer, then it’s highly recommended for all women over the age of 45 to have screenings annually.
If you have any concerns about your breasts, then of course you don’t need to wait for the recommended age. If you or your doctor thinks there might be an issue, you can be screened at any age.
GETTING READY FOR A MAMMOGRAM
You’ll be asked to remove your top and bra when you arrive to have your screening. Your boobs will then be placed one at a time onto a plastic plate. Your technician will then place another plastic plate onto your breast and press it down. Now, this can feel a little uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt, and the screening doesn’t last too long.
The reason your boobies get squished down like this is so your breast tissue gets spread out, which makes it easier to spot anything that might be amiss. Once you’re done, the images get sent to your doctor the check the results. We understand this can feel like a tense time, but you can check with the technician how long it usually takes to get the results.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER
Breast cancer accounts for about 30% of all new cancer cases in women in the USA every year. If you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, then we are so sorry and are so proud of how brave you are.
We understand how scary and difficult it must be to receive a breast cancer diagnosis. And we know how easy it is to immediately assume the worst. But the earlier your cancer is found, the easier it is to treat it.
So, what happens after you receive a diagnosis?
The first thing to know is that there are several different types of breast cancer (including ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, and triple-negative breast cancer), as well as different stages. Speak to your doctor about which type you have and for more information about it.
It’s important to ask as many questions as you want, but we know how overwhelming hearing the news is, so of course, you might struggle to think of questions. It’s a good idea to go to your appointment with a friend or loved one and to take a notepad so you can both ask questions and write everything down.
Some typical questions you could ask include:
- What type of breast cancer do I have?
- Where exactly is the cancer?
- Has it spread to another area?
- How quickly is the cancer growing?
- Has it spread to the lymph nodes?
- What is the stage of my breast cancer and what exactly does that mean?
- Will I need to have any more tests?
- How can you be sure I have breast cancer?
- What will my treatment look like?
- Do I need to see any other doctors?
- What is the grade of my cancer and what does this mean?
- What is the long-term outlook?
Your doctor will talk to you about your treatment options. There are many ways to treat breast cancer, such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone treatment, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy drugs. Sometimes, doctors use more than one treatment for breast cancer and your doctor will discuss your treatment plan with you. Again, feel free to ask as many questions as you want.
Your healthcare team will provide you with as much information as you need and will help prepare you for your treatment. We know how tough this is, but it’s essential to surround yourself with a solid support network of friends and family, so everyone can support you through your treatment.
After treatment, and for years after your treatment ends, you will continue to see your doctor for follow-up care. This care consists of exams and tests to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back. If your treatment didn’t involve a mastectomy, you’ll also need to have a mammogram every year and possibly other tests such as bone density or heart tests.
HOW TO SUPPORT A LOVED ONE DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER
If a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re probably feeling helpless and scared. Not sure of what to say or do. Whether you should avoid the subject or learn everything there is about breast cancer.
One thing’s for sure. You want to be there for her. To love and support her and be her cheerleader while she takes on the Big C, battles like a warrior through treatment, and (hopefully) beats it once and for all.
So, what can you do to support someone with breast cancer?
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Ask your loved one if they want to talk about their diagnosis. If they don’t want to, then let them know that’s ok, and that you’re there for them whenever they choose to. They might not have the words to say how they’re feeling.
- Instead of asking her if there is anything she needs, just do stuff for her. She probably won’t want to ask for help, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need help. Make a few meals and drop them round, pick up her kids from school and have them back for a play date, hire a cleaner to help out around the house, and do a grocery shop for her.
- Offer to go with her to appointments or treatment. Bring a notebook so you can write everything down that she might not be able to take in.
- Help her take her mind off things by continuing to do all the things you normally do together. Whether that’s chilling on the couch and watching Netflix, chatting about everything over a glass of wine, or ordering takeout from the newest spot in town.
- Send her messages of love often. Try not to end your message asking for a response, instead, just send messages letting her know how much you love her, how proud you are of her, and how strong she is. If you usually send silly memes to each other then carry on. You’ll be helping to make her smile and maybe take her mind off things for a while.
- Send her thoughtful gifts and surprises to cheer her up.
Just knowing you are there for her can help make her journey a little easier. But we also know how tough it can be on you, and how heartbreaking it is to see your loved one go through this experience. Make sure you are kind to yourself and have someone you can talk to too.
This blog is not intended to be medical advice, but guidance and support. Work with your practitioner if you have any concerns or questions on breast health.