Photo Credit | National Cancer Institute (US)

By Hadia Mansoor (MWN Hub Researcher)

Looking after our health, both physically and mentally, should always come first for us. As we strive to look and feel like the best versions of ourselves, we are often quick to notice certain changes with our body - whether it be putting on a few pounds or breaking out with spots. However, we also go through changes that we remain unaware of. Let’s take a moment to question how well we know our body, especially our breasts? Would you be able to detect if something did not feel right?

We should normalise regularly checking our breasts for lumps, bumps, or anything unusual. It is extremely important that we do so, as breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer affecting women - with approximately 55,000 women being diagnosed in the UK a year. It is therefore essential for women to attend their breast cancer screening appointments. For example, black women in England are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women. This may be a result of a low uptake of cancer screening which highlights the need for health care providers to perhaps do more to reach out to certain groups of women and provide better educational awareness information. Whilst a higher number of women are diagnosed with this form of cancer, men too can also be affected with 300-400 being diagnosed with breast cancer a year.

There is a lot of stigma and misconceptions directed towards breast cancer, and it is crucial that we educate ourselves, and the people around us, about the reality of being diagnosed, undergoing treatment and living with breast cancer. MWN Hub had the pleasure of interviewing Iyna - Co-Founder of Sakoon Through Cancer - who kindly shared her journey and tips for dealing with breast cancer.

Many of us have a preconception that breast cancer is solely genetic, or that you can only get it when you are older – this is not the case. Iyna developed breast cancer at the young age of 30, in 2015. With no previous health concerns or family history pertaining to cancer, Iyna found a lump under her breast by accident after a workout and just like that, her life had changed and she found herself ‘fighting a battle that you don’t know if you are going to win’.

This is why people don’t check because they don’t think it will ever happen to them…but I’m a living example with no family history, I was young, had a healthy weight and ate healthy, had no other health conditions… but I got it (breast cancer)

Undergoing extensive chemotherapy sessions can be challenging and it can be one of the hardest things a cancer patient may endure. Many side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss and fatigue, and some may also need surgery. At the same time, some survivors may agree that this experience has strengthened them so that they can overcome any obstacle that comes their way with a new-found resilience. We must applaud the determination and perseverance that women demonstrate when experiencing breast cancer.

Check your breasts!

Spotting possible symptoms for breast cancer as early as possible is crucial, as this is when your chances of successfully treating this form of cancer are at its greatest. There are several possible signs of breast cancer, and it is very important to note that you do not need to experience all of these symptoms to have breast cancer. Some may experience as little as one or two of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in the shape or size of your breasts
  • Finding a lump in or around your breasts
  • Changes in the texture of your skin around your breasts
  • Pain/swelling in your breasts
  • Inverted nipples or experiences discharge from your nipples

The only way you will notice if there is something different with your breasts is if you regularly examine them. It is quick and easy to do: take the tip of 3 or 4 of your fingers and apply pressure on your breasts; going around in circles from your nipples and away to your outer breasts, underarms and to your collarbones (it may be easiest to examine your breasts whilst you are in the shower).

Tip: It is worth examining your breasts a few days after your periods as your breast tissues are harder during your periods and can make it harder to examine and get a real idea of what your breasts actually feel like.

If you notice anything unusual about your breasts, it is important that you book an appointment with your GP straight away. After all, we cannot put a price on our health and remember...

Regularly check your breasts!

Find out more about Iyna's story here:

Let's Talk: Breast Cancer (Part 1) - Iyna Butt shares her story of being diagnosed

Let's Talk: Breast Cancer (Part 2) - Iyna Butt talks about her experience of having stage 3 cancer

Let's Talk: Breast Cancer (Part 3) - Iyna Butt talks about cultural stigmas and support

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