Check your breasts and know what is normal for you

We all know the importance of checking your breasts or pecs for signs of cancer, but how many of us actually do it.

October is breast cancer awareness month and charity Coppafeel is on a mission to educate people as to what to look for.

Sarah Picture: Derek Bremner

Sarah Picture: Derek Bremner

Sarah Evans, 39, from Brighton has been checking since she was 18 so when she found a lump in her left breast she knew it wasn’t normal.

“I knew my boobs and what they felt like and the lump felt like a dried pea,” she said.

“The GP believed that the lump wasn’t just nothing and because I self-checked I knew what I was talking about.

“So many other young women just get told it’s hormones and don’t get referred. Two weeks later I went to the breast clinic and had a scratch biopsy of the lump and an ultrasound where they found another lump.
“I had two lumps in my left breast. The doctor told me it was highly unlikely to be cancer because I was young and fit and healthy and I had no family history of the disease.
“I know it sounds strange but I didn’t worry at all, I trusted their judgement. They said they just needed to make sure it was nothing so do more tests.”

Signs and symptoms courtesy of CoppaFeel

Signs and symptoms courtesy of CoppaFeel

After a core biopsy Sarah was told she had stage 3 ductal invasive breast cancer.

“I went into total shock. I thought I was going to be told they were just cysts or benign lumps and not to worry.

“I never thought it would happen to me in a million years, having cancer at 33.”

Sarah had a left side mastectomy and lymph node clearance with immediate reconstruction, as well as six rounds of chemo.

Maren and Kris founders of charity CoppaFeel

Maren and Kris founders of charity CoppaFeel

Looking back Sarah says she doesn’t think she will ever fully get over what happened.

“It affects every part of your life,” she said, “it gives you a new, different life that will never be the same as your old life.

“The physical and mental shock will always stay with me. Some days are better than others but I am a positive person and I am determined to live my life to the fullest.

“Being involved with CoppaFeel! has also affected my life in such a positive way, being able to do something to help educate younger people and meet such a fabulous group of young women who have been affected by breast cancer. They are a wonderful charity.”

The charity was founded in 2009 by Kristin Hallenga and her twin sister Maren. Kris was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at the age of 23. Kris was unaware that breast cancer could affect people in their twenties and knew very little about the disease and set up the charity to raise awareness.

Sarah is keen to share the message that everyone, both boys and girls, should check regularly and if you find anything that’s not normal for them to see their GP.
“It’s not scary or weird that’s what they are there for,” she added.
“Men get can breast cancer too, it’s much more rare than for women but I’ve met several men over the last few years who have breast cancer.
“Had I not checked regularly and known my body I wouldn’t have found the lump and caught it in time and things could have been very different for me.
“We are all responsible for our own health and must make sure we know our bodies, not just for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer but all cancers.”

For more information on Coppafeel, visit coppafeel.org