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One third of 18-24 year olds have never performed a breast check

Breast Cancer Ireland has described the low numbers of women performing breast checks as “a real concern”, saying that early detection is the key to surviving the cancer.
Sep 26th 2011, 2:11 PM 942 4

MORE THAN ONE third of women aged between the ages of 18 and 24 have never performed a breast check, according information gathered by Breast Cancer Ireland.

Young women are being urged to check their breasts regularly so they can identify what is normal for their own bodies. Breast Cancer Ireland says that early detection is the key to surviving the cancer, which has a lower age profile than other types of the disease and represents one-third of all female cancers.

“I never expected to get breast cancer at the age of 33, just one year after giving birth to my first child. To me, breast cancer was a disease for older women, not someone like me,” said Nicola Turley, a young breast cancer survivor and mother, originally from Galway.

“After being diagnosed, I realised that every woman is at risk and needs to know what to look out for so you can spot changes and act immediately… finding my lump early saved my life,” she said.

The study showed that most women (85 per cent) believed they should check their breasts for changes at least once a month, however just one in two actually did so. A worrying 39 per cent of women aged between 25 and 34 years of age admitted that they never check their breasts – or only do so once a year.

The situation was described as “a real concern” by Breast Cancer Ireland, as research has shown that most breast cancers (81.9 per cent) are found randomly by women themselves.

Breast Cancer Ireland and Aviva Health Insurance Ireland Limited will launch the ‘Be Breast Aware: Have a Feel Day’ on 20th October in a bid to encourage young women to perform checks more often.

Aviva’s free health and fitness app, Health Mate, also offers women a discreet monthly breast check reminder for their phones, so they can remember to check themselves long after Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over. Health Mate is available now on iTunes or the Android Market.

“Our research shows that the majority of women (87 per cent) believe a specific ‘Day’ should be dedicated to remind them to check their breasts during Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” said Dr Naoimh Kenny, GP on Aviva’s Medical Council. “We want to encourage young women to be pro-active about their health on the 20thOctober by examining their breasts thoroughly and getting other women to do the same.”

A special ‘Have a Feel Day’ Facebook page will be established and will provide a step-by-step video on how to complete a breast check. More than 55,000 breast check shower cards will be made available at GP surgeries nationwide.

Dr Kenny outlined tips for women on how to perform a proper breast check.

How to check your breasts properly:

  • Put your left hand behind your head
  • With the pads of your right fingertips make small circular movements to examine your left breast for anything unusual
  • At first feel lightly, checking for anything near the surface
  • Then press quite firmly, feeling for anything deeper. Continue around the breast checking all areas.
  • Also, examine above your breast, up to the collarbone and out to the armpit.
  • Gently squeeze the nipple between the thumb and forefinger to check for unusual discharge.
  • Then repeat these steps for the right side.

Changes to look for in your breasts:

  • A lump or thickening which is different to the rest of the breast tissue
  • Continuous pain in one part of the breast or armpit
  • One breast becomes larger or lower
  • A nipple becomes inverted or changes shape or position
  • Skin changes including puckering or dimpling
  • Swelling under the armpit or around the collarbone
  • A rash on or around the nipple
  • Discharge from one or both nipples

For further information on the ‘Be Breast Aware: Have a Feel Day’ campaign, visit avivahealth.ie or www.facebook.com/avivaireland or breastcancerireland.com

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Jennifer Wade

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