Breast Cancer Awareness Month: lumps aren’t the only sign of breast cancer
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging women to be aware that lumps aren’t the only sign of breast cancer to look out for. The call comes at the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as the PHA highlights the less well-known signs of breast cancer by partnering with Menarys, who will be hosting a unique set of mannequins within a number of their stores’ lingerie departments. The lifelike mannequins depict some lesser-known signs of breast cancer to raise awareness and encourage women to keep an eye out for them.
Dr Louise Herron, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said: “While breast cancer can occur at any age, the risk of developing it increases as women get older. In fact, most breast cancers occur in women over 50, so we are displaying the mannequins in a number of Menarys stores as an opportunity to highlight in a uniquely realistic way some of the key things women need to look for, and to provide leaflets with further information and advice.”
Research commissioned by the PHA revealed that when asked about signs or symptoms of breast cancer, two out of three women identified ‘a lump or thickening in your breast’ as a possible sign and almost half recognised that ‘a lump or thickening under your armpit’ may also be a sign. However, there was low awareness that skin changes, such as dimpling or puckering, or changes to the nipple such as a discharge, bleeding from the nipple or the nipple, could also indicate breast cancer.
As a result, the PHA produced a set of mannequins taken from casts of women, which were painted to reflect these less well-known signs, for a breast cancer awareness film. These are now being used to increase awareness among women.
Dr Herron added: “Many women know that if they find a lump in their breast they need to get this checked out, but lumps aren’t the only sign of breast cancer. Any changes which are not normal for you should be investigated straight away by your GP. Don’t be embarrassed or ignore any potential signs as the positive news is that 9 out of 10 women in Northern Ireland survive breast cancer when it is caught and treated early.”
The PHA has developed a range of social media messages to support the initiative, along with posters and leaflets which will be available during October and November from GP surgeries and pharmacies across Northern Ireland, a number of cancer charities, and Health and Social Care Trust Resource Units.
Stephen McCammon, Menarys Managing Director, said: “Menarys are delighted to be partnering with the Public Health Agency for the launch of this breast cancer awareness programme. This is a cause close to the hearts of many of our customers and staff, as we all know someone who has been affected by cancer in some way. We are committed to doing everything possible to emphasise how important being breast aware is. We will be displaying the mannequins in a number of our stores throughout the month of October that will highlight three classic symptoms of breast cancer, and by doing so, we believe that we can carry that message to a wide range of women in the target age group.”
The film was previously broadcast as part of the Be Cancer Aware mass media campaign, and the increased number of urgent GP referrals over the campaign period led to an additional 63 women being diagnosed with breast cancer compared with the same period in the previous year, an increase of 44% (206 v 143).
To view the mannequins go to www.pha.site/bcaresources. This website provides information about cancer signs and symptoms, explains what to do if you’re concerned, and signposts people to recommended sources of support or further information.
It is important to note while breast cancer is much more common in women, it can also affect men, so anyone noticing changes in their breast should seek the advice of their GP.
Research commissioned by the PHA in 2015 asked women if they could recall (unprompted) any warning signs/symptoms of breast cancer. The two most frequent responses were ‘a lump or thickening in your breast’ (66%) and ‘a lump or thickening under your armpit’ (45%). However, unprompted awareness of other potential signs of breast cancer was less, for example skin changes (dimpling – 16%; puckering – 15%) and changes to the nipple (discharge/bleeding – 21%; turned in – 13%)
The mannequins will be on display in Menarys Bangor, Newtownards, Lisburn, Dungannon and finally Cookstown during October- November 2018.
Go to facebook.com/publichealthagency or facebook.com/Menarys to see when they will be on display in each town.