How To Be Breast Aware

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. What is breast cancer and how many women does it affect in the UK? Here are the signs and symptoms to look out for.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. It affects 1 in 10 women (146,000 women are diagnosed with it every year). There are many types with the most common kind developing in the glands and ducts. According to the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer only 35% of us check our breasts regularly. So, what should you be aware of and what is the best way to examine your breasts?

How Breast Cancer Develops

Breast cancer starts with a single cell in the body. Sometimes things go wrong with cells – they may keep dividing and form a lump, be unable to recognize or repair damage to DNA, or lose the ability to interact with other cells. The cancer spreads in two ways: via the blood or the lymphatic system. It can spread to our lymph nodes or be carried by the bloodstream to other areas of the body. When this happens it’s known as secondary cancer.

There’s no exact cause and it’s thought to be a combination of genes, lifestyle, and hormonal and environmental factors.

Changes To Be Aware Of

Changes in the size and shape of your breasts

  • A change in skin texture
  • Inverted nipples
  • Any unusual lumps in the breast or armpit
  • Rashes or discharge from the nipples
  • Painful, tingly or tender breasts (after your period)

See your GP if you’re worried about any of the above.

Get To Know Your Breasts

Get into the habit of checking your breasts regularly so you notice anything unusual. Stand in front of a mirror and lift your hands up so you can see how they look. Feel around the breast tissue and underneath and check your nipples and armpits.

Preventative Measures

Research has shown that being overweight can increase the risk of breast cancer. There are several things you can do to reduce the risk: –

  • Follow a diet low in saturated fat, high in fiber, fruit, vegetables, and calcium.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Cut down on alcohol.
  • Take regular exercise.
  • Reduce stress and make time to relax properly.

National Breast Screening Programme

As 80% of cancers occur in women over 50, women in the UK are invited for breast screening checks every three years between the age of 50-70.

Where To Shop

Many shops are supporting breast cancer awareness this month by donating all of the parts of their sales to breast cancer charities. Look out for the familiar pink ribbon/pink products. Retailers to visit include Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Avon Cosmetics, Selfridges and Boots.


  • The Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Diet by Michelle Harvie and Roy Ackermann, Rodale International Ltd, 2006.
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