Breasts, boobs, tits, Pete and Carl, “yaya-balloons”, whatever you call them, it’s easy to agree that these weird milk bags on about half the population’s chests are pretty fantastic in whatever way you see them. But other than having some or knowing someone who does, what do you actually know about them?
I’m not here to talk about boobs in general; we’d be here all day (trust me, I love ’em. I could definitely talk about them all day). I’m here to talk about yours and how well acquainted you are with them.
It might not be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but that doesn’t mean you should sweep this under the rug; 1 in 8 people assigned female at birth (people with developed breast tissue) and 1 in 870 people assigned male at birth (people without fully developed breast tissue) will be diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s nearly 55,000 and nearly 400 cases per year respectively. Treatment for long-established treatment is gory and nasty… it’s not the pretty nipples-poking-through-shirt we see every October. If it hasn’t hit you yet, a lot of people can get breast cancer. It could be you.
Now, I don’t want to be accused of fear-mongering, because it’s actually pretty darn easy to check your boobs. It takes less than five minutes (you could do it while reading this article and be done before you finish) and all you need is your hand. Remember, catch the signs early: 78% of people with breast cancer will survive for over 10 years and 27% of cases are preventable, if caught early enough.
You should be checking your breasts once a month at least — five days after your period starts is best as the tissue can be quite tender. Get to know how they naturally feel so you can pick up on irregularities. All you need to do is lift up your arm, and using your opposite hand (your middle three fingers will do) have a thorough poke around. Make sure you get all the breast tissue: a lot of it is in the “upper outer” quadrant which is based just below your armpit! (Another tip: if your bra wire doesn’t go the whole way round to hold that outer tissue, you’re wearing the wrong size). The UK-based charity Coppafeel! has a handy little chart you can use as a guide for what you’re looking for. There’s not much to a self-check, just make sure you cover all your tissue (and give your nipple a gentle squeeze or two in case of discharge). Remember that breast tissue is naturally firm so if you feel that “lump” over your entire breast, don’t worry – unless it changes.
What do you do if you find something unusual? Don’t worry. Go to your local GP and ask them about it. Chances are they’ll give you a quick breast exam and if they find reason to be concerned, you’ll get referred to a specialist clinic. Remember: don’t panic. Only about 22% of diagnoses are fatal, and chances are your symptoms may be benign.
Thankfully, breast cancer is one of the forms of cancer easily caught and treated, so even if you’ve got a history of it in your family, there’s not a huge amount to panic about. Just keep on top of your body and know what it’s telling you, just like the classic saying: “happy boobs, happy life”. Or something like that.
All statistics are from Cancer Research UK.