As I type I am ready to have my membership to the sisterhood revoked, but I have something embarrassing to admit; until recently I didn’t know what was normal breast tissue and what was something alarming.
We are constantly told that we need to acquaint ourselves with our bodies and not be shy about exploring them and now I’m in my thirties, self-examinations of my breasts should be as routine as drying my hair but they have confused me for a while. Much of the advice available about checking our breasts for lumps says to ‘do it in the shower’ and it makes sense I suppose as when something does change, we will know straight away but my breasts seem to be very unpredictable.
Some days I have soft, non-tender boobs but the next day, they feel firmer and a bit sore. Don’t even get me started on how different they feel during my period (if you have strayed in here by mistake chaps, run away now!). What I have come to realise is that my breast tissue is not uniform, so recently, when one felt a little lumpier than usual in the shower, I screamed to my partner to come and see what he thought. Ever the voice of common sense, he said it felt fine but if I was worried, I should pop and see my nurse, which I did, feeling like an utter failure as a woman.
“What’s the problem then Amy?” she asked and out it came. I explained how stupid I felt for coming to see her but that I didn’t feel confident when inspecting my breasts. How lumpy is worryingly lumpy? What would a potentially cancerous growth feel like? With a deep sigh my lovely, very old-school, nurse held my hand and told me that she wished more women were able to be so honest. As it turns out, a lot of us are unsure what we are really feeling for and often only realise something is not right when it is very wrong. My nurse talked me through what I should keep an eye out for and reassured me that normal breast tissue can feel uneven but that no health professional will ever be annoyed at offering a second opinion.
So it is with a heartfelt plea that I ask you all to be completely honest with yourself and think about if you are really confident when checking your breasts. If not, please go to your practice nurse and have a chat because it is better to be healthy and a bit embarrassed than risking your well being to save face. Let’s not wait until October (the official Breast Cancer Awareness month) to start opening up and talking about things, it doesn’t make us less feminist to admit that we need a little help and advice.