Breast Cancer Awareness - ‘Nobody knows your body better than you’

The banner launch at Free Derry corner.
The banner launch at Free Derry corner.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Pink Ladies - and Pink Panthers - are encouraging women and men to recognise signs and symptoms, while being aware of the importance of early detection

Michelle McLaren, development worker and Jacquie Loughrey, Education Prevention Officer, with the Pink Ladies, spoke to the ‘Journal’ this week and outlined the tireless work of the group, which offers key support, prevention and education.

Breast Cancer is one of the ‘most treatable’ cancers, but detection is key, as is going for routine check ups and seeking advice if you’re concerned about changes.

Michelle said: “That’s one of the key messages we want to give - nobody knows your body better than you.”

The Pink Ladies have been ‘extremely busy’ so far this month and recently launched their ‘Breast Aware’ banner at Free Derry corner. While October puts the focus on breast cancer, the organisation works tirelessly 12 months of the year across the city, raising awareness of cancer. One of the services it offers is the Cancer Awareness and Reduce Your Risk sessions, during which they visit groups - whether it be workplaces, community groups, schools, a group of women who meet weekly for a coffee - and give a talk on signs and symptoms, how to self check and what to do if you notice any changes. Also, as part of their prevention strategy, they also focus on how you can reduce your risk. “The talks are really interactive,” said Michelle.

“We want to let people know what is out there and what’s available. Sometimes, people will say to us that they don’t know what is out there or what to look for. We have great training aids that show what a lump would feel like and the signs such as a rash or nipple leakage. We’re not there to scaremonger - we can always give another explanation of why something could be happening to you, but it’s still something that needs to be checked. Being aware is so important - knowing what is normal for you and your body.”

Michelle and Jacquie told how breast cancer is not just confined to the older woman and they have seen an increase in young women and men being referred to the breast unit or receiving a diagnosis. Additionally, awareness is leading to cancers being picked up at an earlier stage, which is very important.

Michelle and Jacquie said the Pink Ladies and Pink Panthers, based at the Gasyard Centre, are there to speak with anyone who may have concerns - for example, perhaps you’ve been referred to the unit and you’re worried about what happens when you go there or during a mammogram.

“Just pick up the phone. We will give you advice on where you can go and who you can see. It’s natural to feel nervous, but the team at the breast unit are absolutely lovely and make you feel so at ease. It’s important for women to look after themselves. Sometimes, with work and children, or caring for someone, or just life in general, we put things off or think we’ll be grand.”

Something else which is vitally important is attending routine screenings.

“It’s quick in and out, painless and it’s great to hear when everything is ok. They’re very discreet and make you feel very much at ease. Many women don’t go as they say they don’t feel anything is wrong, but a lot of breast cancers are picked up through routine mammogram, so that’s why it’s so important. We’re blessed to have these screenings. They have saved so many lives.”

The equipment at the mobile screenings, as well as the reading and processing of scans are completed in the exact same way as at hospital. And, if you miss an appointment, it’s important you make another one as soon as you can. One of the key messages of Pink Ladies and Pink Panthers, is that checking your body for any changes is vitally important, as is being aware of your body.

Pink Ladies not only offers support, education and prevention, they also provides services such as complimentary therapies, counselling, listening ear and health and well being programmes, as well as a range of different activities from dedicated staff and volunteers. They are also delighted that a local man, Gordon Harper, celebrated as the ‘Pianist of the People’ and a long time supporter of Pink Ladies, who plays music from the shows and concerts in Bennigans, is to release a CD with all proceeds going to the group. It will launch in Bennigans on Friday, October 25 from 5-7pm. All welcome. See Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group,on Facebook. Telephone 02871414004