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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Helping young people to become aware in Herts

Credit: marijana1 on Pixabay.

Each year, around 55,000 women and 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK.

While the disease is more common in those over 50, it can also affect younger people.

Now one woman is sharing her story with young adults in South West Hertfordshire, as part of this October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Charlotte Dudeney-Tucker, from Ware, was diagnosed with breast cancer last November at the age of 26.

She had chemotherapy followed by a mastectomy with reconstruction, and is currently undergoing radiotherapy.

Charlotte said: “I was in the shower when I found a lump in my breast. I know my body and I knew this wasn’t right for me.

“When I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer, I wasn't shocked. It felt more like validation, because I’d had several doctors tell me I was too young to have breast cancer.

“But I knew the lump was a new change for me and that I needed to get it checked. I’m glad I listened to my gut.”

A quarter of young adults do not realise they could be affected by breast cancer, according to research from CoppaFeel! – a youth-focused charity, which raises awareness of breast cancer amongst 18-24 year olds.

The non-profit organisation aims to provide people with “the knowledge and tools they need to get to know their bodies,” in order to check their breasts, chest or pecs. 

Last month, CoppaFeel! launched Know Yourself – a campaign which sets out to connect with its young audience “on a more basic fundamental level,” by “asking them to just know that breast cancer could affect them regardless of their age, gender or ethnicity”.

CoppaFeel! told Vibe 107.6 FM: “Despite breast cancer being the most common cancer in females aged 25 to 49, a third of young people aren't aware that they could be affected.

“Although incidences in young people are lower, everyone has breast tissue, which develops at a young age.

“As a charity, CoppaFeel! want all young people to be their own best advocates and this campaign hopes to encourage everyone to get comfortable with their bodies, embracing themselves whatever shape and size and however they identify."

Breast cancer can affect young women in many ways from diagnosis and treatment through to fertility.

                                                                    
Charlotte Dudeney-Tucker. Credit: Breast Cancer Now.

Charlotte who is now 27, explained how her own diagnosis affected her life: “Before I started treatment, I had two rounds of IVF for fertility preservation, as a backup plan for my future.

“Then I started chemotherapy, which was obviously tough, but I managed to get through it.

“I found a lot of support through the online community, and have made friends for life through Instagram.

“Plus, the information on Breast Cancer Now’s website really helped me digest everything that was happening.

“If you ever find yourself needing support, you can always reach out to them and access their life-changing services.

“Life looks very different for me now. My mind and body feel very different.

“I’m not the same person I was before cancer, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Cancer has taken a lot from me, but it’s also brought so many amazing people and opportunities into my life.

“Day to day I’m learning how to deal with side effects, how to reorient future plans and build myself back up.

“Although I feel like my confidence has been knocked, the little things don’t phase me anymore.

“I live in the present much more now and don’t allow myself to stress out about the future and things I cannot control.”

According to the NHS the signs of breast cancer can include a lump or area of thickened breast tissue, a change in shape or size of one or both breasts, discharge from the nipple, a lump or swelling in the armpit, dimpling on the skin of your breasts, and a rash or change in the appearance of the nipple.

Two thirds of breast cancers are found by women after noticing new or unusual breast changes and getting these checked by their GP.

Furthermore, treatment is more likely to be successful if the disease is detected early.

A spokesperson from NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), commented: “Cancer is the single biggest cause of death in West Hertfordshire, and like all diseases breast cancer is far easier to deal with if spotted early.

“This month is a chance for us all to remember to look, touch and check for anything new, unusual or different.

“If you find something that worries you, please talk to your GP straight away.

“Help us to help you stay well by telling us as soon as something doesn't feel right."

This sentiment is shared by Charlotte who added: “Please get to know your body, and check yourself regularly.

“If you ever find anything new or unusual, go to see your GP immediately, it’s never a waste of time, and once you’re there advocate for yourself and make sure they take you seriously.”

For more information on breast cancer visit the CoppaFeel! and Breast Cancer Now websites.

Breast Cancer Now’s Younger Women Together Online offers women aged up to 45 the chance to connect with others and hear from experts. 

Sign up here: www.breastcancernow.org/online-services

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