Women aged 18-25 urged to check breasts for cancer

·5 min read
(Getty Images)
Women aged 18 to 25 are being asked to get to know their body in a drive to raise awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer. (Getty Images)

Women aged 18 to 25 are being urged to get to know their bodies in a new campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer. 

CoppaFeel! said young people often do not think they are at risk of breast cancer, even though an early diagnosis can save lives.

The launch of the CoppaFeel! Know Yourself campaign comes after Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding, 39, died from breast cancer earlier this month.

Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women under 30 in the UK (with 181 new cases every year and around 12 deaths).

While it is much more common in older women, around 5,000 women under the age of 45 are diagnosed with it every year in the UK.

The charity's mission is to give all young people the best chance of surviving breast cancer by ensuring that every case is diagnosed early and correctly. 

But many young women seem unaware they can be impacted by breast cancer and aren't checking their breasts regularly. 

Figures from Coppafeel! reveal young women are less likely to check their breasts consistently, with only 36% of women aged 18 to 35 checking their breasts monthly.

As well as being less likely to check regularly, this demographic is the most likely to delay seeing a GP - with CoppaFeel!’s research showing that 1in 5 young people would delay visiting their doctor because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Men get breast cancer too

Women are being urged to get to know their bodies. (Getty Images)
Women are being urged to get to know their bodies. (Getty Images)

Lucy Lepe, who features in the campaign’s TV advert, was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 27.

“As a young person, I didn’t know much about breast cancer, only what I’d seen on TV, which rarely featured anyone young or black," she says. 

“I definitely didn’t know that I could be affected at my age.

“I got involved in the campaign in the hope of changing that narrative, to raise awareness and help more young people understand that breast cancer can affect anyone, irrespective of age, gender or ethnicity.”

Signs of breast cancer include a lump or thickened area, swelling or lump in the armpit, change to nipple appearance and new puckering or dimpling.

Read more: I had a double mastectomy at 25. Now I design lacy lingerie for women like me

Alongside a TV advert, CoppaFeel! will be launching a radio campaign and other adverts.

Commenting on the campaign launch, Sinead Molloy, head of marketing at CoppaFeel!, said: “Many people think of breast cancer as something that affects older women, but CoppaFeel! exists to shift that perception, by showing that breast cancer could affect any young person.

“We hope that viewers take away the message that breast cancer is a relevant issue to young lives too, and above all else, understand that nobody knows their body better than they do.”

Watch: Breast cancer charity urges young women to get to know their bodies. 

How often should we be checking our breasts?

Coppafeel! recommends that checking your breasts should become a monthly habit.

"By checking on a regular basis, you will also build the confidence of knowing what is normal for you each month. Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t worry if you’re not feeling confident straight away," the charity explains.

Read more: One in five women unlikely to visit doctor with breast health concerns

How to check your breasts

The NHS recommends doing your monthly check in the bath or shower, using the soapy water to make the process a little easier to spot anything out of the ordinary.

You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.

Feeling your armpits should be a key part of your monthly check, too.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme has produced a five-point plan, making it easier than ever to know what you’re looking out for.

The five simple points are:

  • Know what's normal for you

  • Look at your breasts and feel them

  • Know what changes to look for

  • Report any changes without delay

  • Attend routine screening if you're 50 or over

(Getty Images)
Get to know your boobs, and what's normal for you. Getty Images)

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer

The NHS website advises people to see a GP if they notice any of these symptoms:

  • A change in the size, outline or shape of your breast

  • A change in the look or feel of the skin on your breast, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness

  • A new lump, swelling, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that was not there before

  • A discharge of fluid from either of your nipples

  • Any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently

  • A rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around your nipple

  • Any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it's a new pain and does not go away (although pain is only a symptom of breast cancer in rare cases)

For more information, visit coppafeel.org

Watch: Sarah Harding 'fought incredibly hard for 15 months' before she died from breast cancer

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