Breast Cancer - the two words that no woman (or man) ever want to hear. However, unfortunately it's something that 1 in 8 people in the UK will experience in their lifetime and sadly 1 person is diagnosed every 10 minutes.
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?
Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast start to divide and grow in an abnormal way. It's caused by many different factors, a lot of which are beyond anyone's control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be felt as a lump or seen on an x-ray.
FACTS & STATS
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month around 5000 people will diagnosed, however breast cancer survival rates are improving and has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK, in fact 9 out of 10 women survive breast cancer for five years or more, although the physical and emotional effects of this horrible disease can be long-lasting.
The 3 main risk factors:
- Family History - although not common, around 5% of people diagnosed with the disease have inherited a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
- Being a woman - as cruel as that sounds, over 99% of new cases of breast cancer are in women.
- Age - more than 80% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50 (most men who get breast cancer are over 60).
PREVENTION & DETECTION
Although the causes of breast cancer are not fully understood and there are no proven ways to prevent it, there are ways you can help reduce your risk:
- Stay physically active
- Stop smoking
- Drink less alcohol
- Eat a healthy & balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
Most importantly - Know your body.
It's so important to be breast aware so you can pick up signs of anything unusual as soon as possible. When you know what is normal for you, it will make it far easier to notice potential problems.
- A lump or area of thickened tissue in the breast that was not there before.
- A change in size or shape of your breast.
- Dimpling on the skin of your breast.
- A change in appearance of your nipple, for example, becoming sunken into your breast.
- Bloodstained discharge from either of your nipples.
- A rash on or around your nipples
90% of breast lumps aren't cancerous, but it's always best to have them checked out by your doctor.
HOW TO CHECK YOUR BREASTS:
Start with standing in front of a mirror with your arms on your hip and your shoulders straight. Look for any visible changes to your breasts (see above symptoms)
- Raise your arms and look for the same changes
- Feel your breasts, use your right hand to feel your left breast and vice versa.
- Use a firm, smooth touch with your first few fingertips, keeping your fingers flat and together move around in a circular motion.
- Repeat this motion over your entire breast area, from top to bottom, side to side and from your collar bone to the top of your abdomen and your armpits to your cleavage.
According to BreastCancer.org, lumps are most likely to be cancerous if they do not cause pain, are immobile, hard and unevenly shaped.
For more tips on how to check your breasts, check out our breast awareness page, here.
WHAT IS A MASTECTOMY?
A mastectomy is an operation to remove the breast, it's an operation used to treat breast cancer in women (or men) and can also be used to reduce the risk of breast cancer developing. Mastectomies are safe procedures with very little complications, many people make a good recovery which generally takes 3 - 6 weeks. A specialist nurse can give you practical and good advice about mastectomy bras and prostheses (inserts for your bra) should you need/want them.
Different types of mastectomy:
Single Mastectomy - A single mastectomy means the removal of one breast. This is generally the most common form of surgery. When you are fitted for a prosthesis or breast form, the nurse will make sure you get the same size as your remaining breast, so when you are wearing a bra, both sides look equal. When fitting for a bra, it is recommended to fit your existing breast first, so it is easier for the nurse to get the correct size prosthesis.
Double Mastectomy - A double mastectomy means having both breasts removed. This could mean that the size of your prostheses is entirely your choice.
Lumpectomy - This is also known as a partial mastectomy, where only part of the breast is removed. Partial breast forms are available to put into the pockets, so both sides look equal. After a lumpectomy, it is likely you will be able to wear your standard bras again or you may prefer not to.
Reconstruction - A breast reconstruction means creating a new breast shape with surgery. This can be done at the same time as a mastectomy or after. Recovering from a breast reconstruction will take slightly longer, so we advise you wear a bra that is soft and comfortable until your shape settles.
This is where we at Knicker Locker can step in and help.
A mastectomy bra will have slight differences to a standard bra. One of the main differences is they include internal pockets, which hold the prosthesis or breast form in place. The pockets are usually made with a cotton lining, this makes them extremely soft and comfortable when placed against the skin. Many mastectomy bras have bilateral pockets that are extremely soft against the skin. After surgery your scars and skin will be very sensitive, therefor you don’t want anything that could irritate your skin or cause unnecessary discomfort.
Most mastectomy bras are soft cups and do not contain any underwires. The main purpose for this is for comfort reasons and changes in shape. A soft cup bra is also more flexible with your cup size, especially through swelling and then when your size starts to settle. However if you do prefer underwires, brands such as Amoena do offer underwired bras for women who prefer the shape. The underwires are wider and flexible so they don't irritate scars or tissue.
A mastectomy bra will also come up higher on the neckline and under the arms, making sure that when your are moving, your breast form stays in place and will not show, this also means it will be covering any chest scars you may have.
Take a look at our Mastectomy Bra Guide for more information.
TAKE A PEAK
The Aurelie Soft Cup Bra features a beautiful lace, decorative jacquard fabric and a pearl pendant trim. It has a gorgeously soft padded back closure and adjustable elastic shoulder straps for extra comfort and has bilateral pockets. Matching briefs available.
The Lilly Soft Cup Bra is a wonderful everyday classic. It has elegant light lace detailing on the cup and under-band. With no side bones, a 2-part cup style and bilateral pockets it gives a good supportive shape and keeps you comfortable. Matching briefs available.
Amoena is one of the leading breast care brands in the UK, for the past 40 years they have focused on fit, style and quality within their collections. They have helped women rediscover their sense of femininity and self confidence after breast cancer surgery.
There are plenty of different shapes, styles and colours to be found - Shop Knicker Locker's full range of Mastectomy Bras, here >>
ONE FINAL WORD
When I was asked to write a blog to help raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness month, I was slightly scared. As someone who has worked in the bra industry and seen first hand the emotional and physical changes that women go through I cannot even begin to imagine what these women go through, I can only admire them for battling such an awful disease and admire them for their strength and courage. It comforts me to know that throughout the years I have managed to make somebodies life that little bit easier and I can continue to help - as us lingerie ladies say, confidence begins underneath and that's what we at Knicker Locker are here for.
Cancer is a scary, horrible and cruel disease that has taken so many lives too early. But you don't have to go through it alone, if you have any breast care or concerns you can call the Breast Cancer Care helpline on 0808 800 6000 or visit their website www.breastcancercare.org.uk.
Remember to know your body and take the time to get to check yourself regularly, it could save your life.
LOVE JESS X