Irish grandmother Eilish Hayes is urging all women to be breast aware this Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, BreastCheck – the National Breast Screening Programme is asking all eligible women to put themselves first and attend their appointment when invited.
Cork woman, Eilish Hayes, 52, was one of the women who are glad she didn’t ignore her appointment letter. She counts herself lucky her disease was detected, and urges all women to get checked:
Eilish said: “I want to encourage every woman who gets a BreastCheck letter to please go for a mammogram. It’s free. I don’t know where I would be today, or how the tumour would have progressed if I had not gone for my BreastCheck appointment. If they catch it early, they can help you to get through it.”
Screening is an effective way of detecting changes in the breast, where there are no symptoms. Nevertheless, over one in four women are still not attending their BreastCheck appointment when called. Last year, that figure totalled almost 50,000 women.
Although uptake rates nationally are above the target at 74.7 per cent, there are a number of particular counties with low uptake of screening; these include counties Clare, Kerry, Leitrim, Limerick and Meath, with the lowest participation rates seen in Dublin, Longford and Offaly.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age and therefore, it is important that all eligible women avail of their regular free mammogram every two years, so that changes can be identified at an early stage. If a breast cancer is found early, it is generally easier to treat and there are more treatment options available.
Professor Ann O’Doherty, Lead Clinical Director for BreastCheck said “Breast screening allows earlier detection of breast cancer, detection of tumours at an earlier stage which leads to better outcomes. Smaller tumours can be treated with more conserving surgery and there is usually less requirement for chemotherapy”.
Many women will acknowledge that a mammogram can be uncomfortable and this may discourage some women from attending. But, it can save your life. Most women who do attend their first mammogram decide to attend again, with eight out of every ten women returning for their next mammogram when they receive their appointment.
The programme is asking women who have already participated in BreastCheck to encourage other women of similar ages to attend for screening and to support their fellow sisters, work colleagues and friends to make this one positive step.
The programme encourages eligible women to make sure they are on the BreastCheck register by checking online at www.breastcheck.ie or by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55. Once on the register, BreastCheck will issue an invitation to a woman when next screening in her local area. For those women who have never been part of BreastCheck, there is a short video on the website which explains exactly what happens at the appointment.
BreastCheck urges all women, regardless of age or participation in screening, to remain breast aware at all times and to contact their GP without delay, if they have any concerns regarding breast cancer.
How to be breast aware
· No matter what age you are, it is important to always be breast aware.
· Know what is normal for your body.
· Know what changes you should look for.
What changes should I look and feel for?
· Any lumps or unusual thickening in your breast
· Dimpling, puckering or redness of the skin
· A nipple that appears to be pulled-in or flattened
· A rash or flaky or crusted skin around the nipple
· A change in the size or shape of your breast
· Swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
· Constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit
BreastCheck currently invites women aged 50 to 66 for bi-annual mammograms. This age range is currently being extended to the age of 69 on a phased basis. By the end of 2021, all women aged 50 to 69 will be invited for routine breast screening.
For more information, visit www.breastcheck.ie or call Freephone 1800 45 45 55.