Young women and breast cancer - be breast aware!

Breast cancer doesn’t care about your age, ethnicity or gender

Breast cancer affects woman of all ages, including younger woman, so it’s never too early to start being breast aware and check your breasts regularly, especially when more than half of breast cancers are found by women themselves or by their doctors.

Early detection saves lives

With one in eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, early detection is the key to more effective treatment. In fact, the survival rates are around 90% when breast cancer is detected whilst still confined to the breast. In addition to this, 90% of woman are still alive at 5 years. 

Know your breasts & look for changes

Young women have denser breasts so it can be harder to find lumps, but it’s not just lumps you are looking for. The key is to get to know your breasts so that you notice any changes and if you’re over 50, have a free mammogram every two years. Although woman will not recieve an invitation to have a free mammogram until they are 50, women can ask for a mammogram earlier. 

What to look for

  • A lump, lumpiness or thickening in the breast or in the armpit. This could be a well-defined lump or an area of firmer or harder tissue compared to the surrounding tissue. It does not have to be tender or sore.
  • Skin changes such as a rash, dimpling, puckering or redness.
  • Nipple changes such as an unusual discharge, the nipple pointing in rather than out, or an itchy or ulcerated area.
  • Any part of the breast that feels different.
  • Any unusual or persistent pain.

Don’t be scared, breast cancer in young women is less common. In fact, most lumps found in young women are not cancer but it’s still important that you discuss any changes with your health professional.

Breast awareness habits

It’s easy to be breast aware and there’s no special technique. Simply get to know what is normal for you by looking and feeling for changes and try and do this at the same time each month as your breasts will change depending on where you are in your cycle.

How to check your breasts

  • Has the size, shape or appearance of your breasts changed?
  • Feel all your breast tissue from the collar bone to below your bra line and under your armpits. You can do this in front of the mirror, in the shower or lying down. Whatever works best for you.
  • Feel near the surface and then deeper in the breast using the flat part of the pads of your fingers.
  • That’s it, you’re all done! Make sure you do this once a month - We like to do it on the first. 

If you notice changes

If you notice breast changes, you should see your health professional or GP as soon as possible. Before your appointment;

  • find out if there is any family history of breast cancer
  • talk to them about the changes you have noticed in your breasts
  • be confident when discussing your concerns and don’t be afraid to insist on further investigations if you are still worried. Whilst mammograms are not suitable for younger women, there are other screening options available.
  • If you’re still concerned, seek a second opinion

Myth busters

  • Family history is not the largest risk factor - 8 out of 9 women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known family history.
  • There is no scientific evidence that antiperspirants or deodorants increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Trauma to the breast does not increase your risk, however some breast cancers are found due to examinations resulting from trauma.

Reduce your risk

We still don’t know what causes breast cancer, but these healthy living tips can reduce your chances of developing breast cancer. You will also be improving your overall health and wellbeing. Lead a healthier lifestyle by;

  • not smoking
  • eating a healthy diet
  • increasing physical activity
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • limiting alcohol
  • making breast awareness a part of your monthly routine

Like most cancers, breast cancer is more easily and successfully treated if first detected in its early stages. Learning how your breasts change and feel at different times will help you understand what is normal for you. Most breast changes are not due to cancer, but you should see your doctor immediately if you notice any of the changes outlined above.