October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
There are around 55,000 new cases of Breast Cancer every year in the UK and finding signs early can be lifesaving.
Breast changes can happen for many reasons, and most of them are not serious. Lots of women have breast lumps, and most breast lumps are not cancerous.
But it’s important to check for signs of change and if you spot something unusual don’t delay speaking to your GP.
You can find out more about how to check your breasts on the Breast Cancer now website or by watching this short Breast Cancer UK animation.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer, or any other cancer, can be a devastating shock to people, with many feeling isolated and alone, and not knowing where to turn to get support.
But it’s important that people understand they are not alone, that others have gone through similar journeys themselves, and that support is available.
The Berkshire Cancer Support Network and Cancer Champions project aims to support people with cancer at any point along their journey. It also aims to support their wider family network.
The scheme is for anyone with cancer, or those supporting them, located in or around the Berkshire boroughs of Wokingham. Bracknell, Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead. The project brings together information and resources as well as offering emotional support through a volunteer network, and offering a listening ear.
Berkshire Cancer Support Network also organises regular meet-ups, bringing together people in the community affected by cancer, giving them the opportunity to meet each other and share experiences.
A range of events and activities are organised from coffee and chat sessions, to Nordic walking and online chair Zumba, to talks about nutrition and other subjects targeted at Cancer sufferers.
You can find out more about the network and what they offer on the Berkshire Cancer Support Network website page.
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month Louise Porter and Pat Kerton, two of their Cancer Champions, have kindly shared their own stories about being diagnosed with Breast Cancer, to help raise awareness of the importance of checking your breasts regularly and contacting your GP immediately if you notice any change or have concerns.
Following my diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer in January 2020, I began my rollercoaster ride.
It was tough especially as the majority of my treatment was undertaken during the Covid pandemic, however even in the toughest of times, I felt lucky that the cancer had been caught and I was able to fight it.
If I had not contacted the GP when the cyst that had previously checked appeared to have got worse, I don’t know what would have happened but I remain thankful to this day that I made that GP call, I got referred to the Parapet in Windsor and today I can share my journey and help others.
If you are concerned about any changes to your breast, please do not hesitate in contacting your GP, they will take you seriously and will refer you to the breast cancer team to get checked out properly.
It may be nothing but if it isn’t, unless you make that call, you are not giving yourself the chance of treatment.
I had primary breast cancer in 2007. I was 46 years old with a husband and three teenage sons and three months into my first headship having been a primary school teacher for over twenty years.
It was a real shock as I didn’t feel ill at all. All I had was an unusual pain in my breast and I thought it felt lumpy but couldn’t really feel a lump. I really thought it was probably cysts. I consulted my GP who also didn’t think it was too suspicious but just in case sent me for a mammogram. I was so lucky she did for they had caught it early.
I think it is important to understand that there are many different breast cancers and that they all present in a slightly different way, so the important thing to know is what feels right for your body. Having good body awareness is good for spotting any changes that might be linked to cancer and getting it checked out by a doctor promptly. Because catching it early means it can be more effectively treated.
I received the standard treatment of lumpectomy and lymph node clearance followed by four months of chemo, a long period of radiotherapy and five years on tamoxifen. But there was a high percentage chance of clearing it. It was a full year before I returned to work but I had nine and a half years living clear of cancer.
During this time in my life I developed a particular mindset – ‘life is unfair, get over it and get on with it’. It was pointless spending time worrying, I was one of many thousands of people with cancer. So instead, I turned my attention to better self-care; learning as much as I could about my cancer, how to look after my health and well-being and how to live my best life.
This positive attitude continues to sustain me as I now live with secondary breast cancer.
Top tip: Know your own body and get any changes checked out promptly.