How often should I check my breasts?
We recommend that you check your breasts regularly and make it part of a routine. Checking when changing your scrubs is a great time. However, you can check at any time that is convenient for you (shower/getting dressed/at the gym) but we recommend checking at least once a month.
The most important thing is to get to know your breasts/pecs so that you know what is normal for you and can easily detect any changes.
If you would like to set up a monthly reminder for breast check:
download the App at keep-a-breast.org
or receive monthly text messages through coppafeel.org
I found something unusual. What should I do now?
If you can see or feel anything unusual or you are just unsure then we recommend you make an appointment with your doctor and get it checked out. Please don't leave it. The sooner things are checked out the better.
My doctor says that the changes I have noted may be due to my menstrual cycle or contraceptive pill. How do I differentiate this from cancer?
Your breasts will naturally increase and decrease in size and change in texture with your menstrual cycle. It is really important to get to know what is normal for you. There are lots of reasons why there may be a change in your breasts and most of these are completely normal. Some things like cysts can come and go, however, if you have noticed a persistent change or you are concerned about anything, we recommend getting it checked out by your doctor. Remember, if you are not happy with your doctor's opinion you can ask for a second opinion with another doctor.
I have been diagnosed with cancer. I have so many questions, I don't know who to ask
Being given a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming and it is completely normal to have hundreds of questions. It can be a good idea to write down all of the questions you have before any appointment with a consultant/surgeon/oncologist and take a partner/family member/friend with you so that they can write down the answers. There are lots of good resources available online (please check out our useful resources section). You should also be assigned a breast care nurse who will be particularly helpful as they are used to answering lots of questions. For me one of the most helpful things was talking to other vets in a similar position and other women of the same age who had already been through something similar. Many breast cancer groups online have private sections where women can talk to each other. If you have veterinary specific questions, we can put you in touch with other members of the veterinary world who have been through the same or similar thing. Just contact us.
My friend / colleague has been diagnosed with cancer. I am desperate to help, but don't know what to say or do.
Everyone reacts to a cancer diagnosis differently. Some people will want you to rally around and others will want to be left alone to process things. Some people might be very tearful and some may feel emotions that you wouldn't expect like anger, depression and guilt and this is completely normal. It is likely that these emotions will change daily. Sometimes these emotions may be directed at you and it is important to understand that the person is, very likely, not angry at you, but at the whole situation. Listening can be very hard as it can be an emotional time for you too and hearing some news can be very hard, but it can be very helpful to them.
The most important thing is to let them know that you are there for them whenever they need you but remember that some people find it hard to ask for help and therefore small acts of kindness that are not asked for (walking the dog/picking up shopping/looking after children/sending flowers can be nice) can make a huge difference.
It is easy to feel very lonely and like the world is continuing without you. It can feel even lonelier after treatment has finished therefore keep in touch with them even if they don't answer the text - still send them to let them know they are not alone.
Try to avoid unhelpful comments which although intended to be well meaning often can be interpreted differently for example telling them they will be fine as this often prevents people from expressing how they are really feeling, or telling people they need to fight, as this puts unnecessary pressure on people. Giving uninformed advice or telling a story of someone who died of cancer, will not be helpful.
Useful phrases include "I am sorry this is happening to you" "I am here for you at any time if you want to talk" "do you want me to give you a lift to your appointment/do your shopping/cook your dinner".
Remember that they might not want to talk about cancer at all and having a normal conversation can be a welcome relief.
Remember to look after yourself. Having someone close diagnosed with cancer is very difficult and in order to be the best support to them you need to look after yourself too.
I have been diagnosed with cancer. Will I still be able to work as a veterinary professional through treatment?
It is difficult to know exactly how breast cancer will affect your work. In the short term, it depends on things like the type of cancer, its stage, the treatment you will need and the side effects of that treatment. It is always worth talking to your breast care team so that you know what to expect of each treatment. Some treatments can make you very tired but others can make you immunosuppressed.
Initially, you might need time off for surgery and treatments like radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy and having tests or other appointments.
Depending on the treatment and personal circumstances, some people can choose to continue to work, perhaps with reduced hours, but others take time off before both during and afterwards to cope with things.
You might find it difficult to tell your employer and you might feel worried about having to take time off, worried about how someone might react, feel angry about not being able to work as normal or feel guilty about others having to take on more work or feel worried financially. If your employer knows about your cancer then they can make reasonable adjustments such as flexible working hours/fewer hours or time off for hospital visits.