AN INVERNESSIAN IN AMERICA: Diane Knox asks that we all do our bit for breast cancer awareness raising
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Now that October has hit it’s like a giant pumpkin has exploded all over Jacksonville. You have to hand it to them, Americans do love to embrace a holiday (yes, Halloween is a holiday over here) and a change in the seasons, writes Diane Knox.
The arrival of “Fall” means the coffee chains are serving pumpkin-spiced EVERYTHING, shops are filled with flannel shirts and ankle boots, hay bale structures are being meticulously constructed and decorated for pumpkin patch Instagram shoots and, being in Florida, there’s a teeny tiny hint of a temperature drop in the mornings though it’s still blisteringly hot really.
A plethora of orange it may be, but really the colour of October is always pink.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual 31-day campaign to raise awareness of the impact of this terrible disease. This year, around 55,000 women and 370 men in the UK will be diagnosed with breast cancer and around 11,500 women and 80 men will die from it. It’s maybe more important in 2021 than it’s ever been.
Last year was challenging, and that’s putting it mildly. Healthcare was, and still is, at the forefront, but the number of breast cancer screenings and mammograms were down, resulting in much lower rates of early detection. The NHS is still catching up with backlogged appointments. It’s important to note that the US doesn’t have an equivalent of the NHS, so mammograms cost money – as they do if you want to go private in Scotland. And with a year of financial hardship for many, such screenings unfortunately fell down the list of priorities. That’s why it’s even more important to get the message across this year.
According to breastcancernow.org, half of women in the UK don’t regularly check their breasts. So go on, have a squeeze (of your own!) and check for anything that feels out of the ordinary, anything new or lumpy, and have a good look at them to see if their shape has changed at all. Common signs could be a lump or swelling, puckering of the skin, change in nipple shape or pain in the breast or armpit. If you notice anything different or unusual, go get a checked by your GP.
I talked about my experience with skin cancer earlier this year, and my message since my diagnosis in 2015 has been to go to the doctor as soon as you notice anything even slightly untoward. That’s what they’re there for, and you’ll never be wasting their time. And if you don’t go, the paranoia and anxiety only builds up inside, which is never good for anyone. Early detection is a literal life saver.
Of course, this month is not just about encouraging screenings and awareness – donations are always welcome to help fund research and provide ongoing support. Friday, October 22 is the day to wear your pink and raise some money. You could have a “pink-out” day at work or school, do a pink bake sale, post your pictures on your social media channels and start a JustGiving page…whatever you want to do! So many companies and shops even produce special items, with proceeds going to breast cancer care and research – the Pink Ribbon Foundation have loads on their website. But every little bit of money, awareness and support will hopefully be one step closer to ending this disease, and helping the men, women and children affected by it.