Why we need to champion Breast Cancer Awareness Month more than ever this year

Covid-19 has taken so much from us already, and awareness is key for protecting ourselves against cancer.

breast cancer awareness month
(Image credit: Getty Images/EyeEm)

At some point in our lives, we are going to come across a woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Whether it's a relative, friend, colleague or loved one, every 10 minutes a woman is diagnosed in the UK. The current climate, with Covid-19 dominating headlines and the global pandemic taking precedence within healthcare systems, there has been a steep decline in women going for breast screenings, with cancer referrals in general down a huge 75%, as reported by the Victoria Derbyshire show earlier this year.

This year, over two million women have been backlogged for screenings due to social distancing measures and healthcare services taking precautions with GP appointments as well as face-to-face consultations - and the consequences are more devastating than we ever could have anticipated.

Deborah James, known as @bowelbabe, a tireless campaigner for bowel cancer awareness recently tweeted a staggering statistic; that 18,000 more lives may be lost this year due to less cancer referrals.

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She wrote, ‘Cancer referrals are down in the UK by 75% which could equate to an extra 18,000 lives lost over the next 12 months due to cancer as a result of #COVID19 - Early diagnosis saves lives.'

Covid-19 and cancer

Lockdown this year has impacted health care services for cancer patients. For breast cancer patients in particular, NHS figures show a 60% drop in the number of cancer referrals during the lockdown period compared March/April 2019.

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Cancer patients are at higher risk of contracting and being more seriously impacted by the virus, so it's vital that their health is protected as much as possible. Those more at risk of Covid-19 includes:

  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
  • people with cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment1
  • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppressive drugs

The next month marks Breast Cancer Awareness, many of you will see fundraisers taking place within the local community, at the workplace and schools. Despite the focus being Coronavirus in the current climate, breast cancer is still a health concern that shouldn’t be ignored, now more than ever. We have listed ways in which you are able to ensure you can check for potential symptoms and take care of yourself during this pandemic.

The importance of checking your breasts

It’s useful to take these pointers provided by Breast Cancer Now into consideration so that if you do experience any of the following, you can contact your GP immediately to get checked.

  • A lump or swelling in your breast, upper chest or armpit. You might feel the lump but not be able to see it
  • Any changes to the skin such as puckering or dimpling
  • A change in the colour of your breast, it may look red or inflamed
  • A change to your nipple, for example if it has become pulled in (inverted)
  • A rash or crusting around your nipple
  • Any unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
  • Changes in size or shape of your breast

There are also some little known symptoms of breast cancerthat you should be aware of.

Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020: how you can do your bit

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As mentioned before, next month marks breast cancer awareness. Wear It Pink takes place on Friday 23rdOctober 2020, on this day, fundraisers wear pink to raise money to contribute to breast cancer research. Here are a few ideas to help raise money amongst yourself, colleagues, friends and family whilst staying safe with the social distancing measures in place.

Planning a remote fundraiser

Some of you who are continuing to work from home can still join in the fun, pay up to dress up and you can even get a pink theme going on Zoom calls and video meetings: whether it’s pink wigs, accessories, Pyjamas, onesies and costumes, it can definitely bring some entertainment to the workplace and help raise awareness.

Quiz time

So, you might want to try something new to help fundraise, quizzes are good especially within remote settings with friends and family. Check out the Breast Cancer Nowfundraiser pagewhich has quizzes and bingo materials that you can use to chair a virtual game.

School baking

If you have kids, baking goes down a treat at school! Get wooden spoons and bowls at the ready.

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If you’re a keen baker why not try making some cupcakes, cookies, flapjacks and pastries to take to school. To add to the theme, why not add a few drops of colouring to make it pink? You can easily raise some money through aMacmillian coffee morningor bake sale.