Another friend told me that they had shared my blog with their colleagues. One of them, who didn't know until they read my story that a wonky nipple could be a sign of breast cancer, has now gone to their GP with their own wonky nipple and has been referred for a scan to be on the safe side. As this is someone who has been pregnant, it's more likely to be caused by that than cancer - but you should always get things checked and I'm so glad they are.
So rather than worry that I have gone on about nipples too much, I now think I'd like to start a national "check your nipples" campaign.
Most people know that a lump can be a sign of breast cancer. (Having said that, if you find a lump, don't panic because 9 out of 10 breast lumps are not cancer). But there are other signs of breast cancer that you should be looking out for, lump or no lump.
A reminder of my own situation: there was a slight dent to the side of my nipple, which was making it lean slightly. It was really subtle. I spent a lot of time looking, poking and prodding but I couldn't feel anything suspicious and so I wasn't sure if it was anything or not. But as it wasn't something I'd noticed before, I got it checked out. Sure enough, there's a cancerous tumour underneath it, pulling on the skin, causing the wonk. Myself, my GP, my surgeon and I've lost count of how many nurses have poked, prodded, squeezed and rubbed - and no-one can feel the lump. But it's there. The wonky nipple was the sign.
So I know from first hand experience that it is important to be aware of the signs of breast cancer other than breast lumps, and nipple changes is one of them. I think it would be great if everyone who read this went away and spent some time getting to know their nipples (ha!) and then checked regularly and looked out for changes. Then if there are changes – get them examined by your GP.
Things to look out for include nipples:
- becoming inverted (turned in) when they weren't previously
- changing shape
- changing position
- developing a rash
- producing discharge.
Don’t assume that if you’re young you’re ok for now. Unfortunately my situation is not as uncommon as people would like to think. I know because I’ve already made friends with a lot of local women, the same age as me, who are going through the same thing right now. (We went to the same university, at the same time! We get together and talk about cancer, and chemo, and Reagans and Mega. It's bizarre.) Check yer nipples kids.
And don’t assume that if you’re a bloke you’re ok. It’s less common for men but around 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year. Check yer nipples lads.
And there are other signs too. You can read more about different signs of breast cancer here.