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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This month is all about checking your breasts.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 15 per cent of all new cancer cases in 2016-18, according to Cancer Research UK. There are around 55,900 new breast cancer cases in the UK every year – more than 150 every day, the charity adds.

About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. The condition can also affect men; however, this is much less common – on average roughly 350 men a year are diagnosed in the UK.

There’s usually a good chance of recovery from breast cancer if it’s detected at an early stage. Male or female customers complaining of any of the following symptoms should be referred to the pharmacist:

  • A change in the size or shape of one of both breasts
  • Discharge from either nipple which may be contain blood
  • A lump or swelling in either armpit
  • Dimpling on the skin of the breasts
  • A rash on or around the nipple
  • A change in appearance of the nipple.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Since 1985, Breast Cancer Awareness month has fallen every October as a chance for people all over the world to be publicly reminded to check their breasts. UK charity Breast Cancer Now use this opportunity to advise people to follow their TLC rule:

  1. Touch your breasts – can you feel anything new or unusual?
  2. Look for changes – does anything look different?
  3. Check any changes with your GP.

This October, various charities across the UK are also coming together to raise awareness about risk factors for breast cancer and highlight ways people – especially women­ – can actively reduce their chances of developing the disease.

In fact, Breast Cancer UK estimate that around 30 per cent of breast cancer cases in the UK can be prevented by making lifestyle changes such as losing weight, stopping smoking and exercising more.

To help promote this, the charity is offering fitness challenges such as

  • Daily Pilates Movement Challenge
  • Halloween Family Yoga Workshop
  • Step Out for prevention
  • Putt for prevention
  • Run for prevention.

“About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime”


Research indicates that if you quit smoking for 28 days, you’re five times more likely to quit for good. That’s why October has been renamed “Stoptober” by the NHS, who use this initiative to promote the 28-day stop smoking challenge.

According to the organisation, once a person decides to quit smoking, health changes to the body are almost instant and include:

  • After 20 minutes – pulse rate returns to normal
  • After eight hours – oxygen levels start to recover and the harmful carbon monoxide level in the blood will have reduced by half
  • After 48 hours – all carbon monoxide is flushed out. Lungs start to clear out mucus and taste and smell start to improve.
  • After 72 hours – bronchial tubes start to relax, and energy starts to increase
  • After two to 12 weeks – circulation improves
  • After three to nine months – lung function increased by up to 10 per cent
  • After one year – risk of heart attack will have halved compared with a smoker’s
  • After 10 years – risk of death from lung cancer will have halved compared to a smoker’s.

As the first point of call for most smokers trying to quit, pharmacy teams can get involved in promoting the month by signposting patients to their smoking cessation services and using posters and leaflets provided by the campaign.

Staff could also recommend the NHS Better Health Stop Smoking app, which shows users how much money they’re saving as well as offering a daily email subscription for those needing a boost in motivation.

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