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EDUCATION

Welcome to Cambridge Pink Week: Education!

Pink Week may be loads of fun, but we also want everyone to remember what we’re raising money for. Our Education Officer has put together a load of great material to learn more about the cause! If you think there’s anything else you’d like to see on this page then please feel free to get in touch with the Pink Week Committee.

Let's find out more

How common is breast cancer?

  • Every two minutes someone is diagnosed with cancer in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK, this equates to about 367,000 new cases every year – more than 1000 every day. Of these, around 15% are new breast cancer cases, which is about 55,000 a year. Globally, according to the WHO in just 2020 there are 2.3 million people newly diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 died from it. Luckily, cancer research estimates that around 23% of these breast cancer cases are preventable, meaning that with wider awareness campaigns and research efforts, we can make a real difference in society.

How do I check myself?

  • We all know that we should do it, but very few people know how to. Everyone, all genders and ages, should check themselves regularly to help identify breast cancer early. And remember, you can check both yourselves and your partners.
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What to know before you start:

    Breast tissue extends right up into the armpit and to the collar bone! This means cancer can occur here too, so don’t neglect this tissue when checking yourself.

    Breast tissue changes in consistency over the menstrual cycle. This is completely normal.

    Breast tissue is full milk ducts and connective tissue. These are also completely normal and can be felt as many small nodules. You should get to know what normal breast tissue feels like so if anything does change you are ready to act.

    If in doubt about anything, talk to your GP who can provide you with expert advice.

 

What does the NHS say?

    The NHS recommends feeling each breast up to the collarbone and into the armpit. Look at them in the mirror from the front and from the side with your arms by your side and also with them raised. It may also be easier to check yourself in the shower or bath by running a soapy hand over each breast, and under the armpit.

    Follow the Breast Cancer Care Acronym – TLC, Touch, Look, Check.

  Step 1: What do they LOOK like?

    Get used to what your breasts normally look like. This way, you’ll notice any changes

    Look to see any of the following signs:

    Changes in skin texture, such as dimpling or puckering, often called an ‘orange peel’ appearance;

    A sudden change in size, outline or shape of the breast(s);

    Any swellings or redness

    Changes in nipple position, such as being pulled in, or changes in direction;

    Nipple discharge that’s not milky;

    A rash or ‘crusty’ appearance of the nipple and the surrounding area, which doesn’t heal easily.

 

Step 2: raise your arms and repeat

      This gives you a better look at the entire breast and to give you a peek into the armpits.

 

 

Step 3: Feel your breasts while lying down

      Lying down will give you the best access to all the tissue.

      Keep your hands flat on your skin and use a firm smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand.

      Push down firmly onto the breast tissue, starting from the top in your armpit and ending at the bottom, in any pattern you wish as long as you cover all the tissue. For example, some people carry out a clockwise path, while others travel up and down in rows.

      Some women find it easier to feel their breasts in the shower, as it is easier to feel wetter skin.

 

What are you feeling for?

      A new lump, bumpy area or thickening in the breast or armpit;

      Swelling in the armpit region, or around the collar bone;

      Any long-lasting discomfort or pain in the breast(s), particularly if it’s not going away.

Can men and transgender individuals get breast cancer?

Breast cancer is not a female only disease – in fact, it can occur in anyone with breast tissue, meaning men, women, and transgender individuals.   Breast cancer in men is rare – around 370 men are diagnosed each year, compared to 55,000 women. Despite this, breast cancer is the 20th most common cancer in men. Transgender women using hormone treatment show increased risk of breast cancer – research from the University Medical Centre in Amsterdam suggests that trans women are 47 times more likely to develop breast cancer than cis men.    So, it is important for all of us, regardless of gender, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and to know how to check yourselves.   The risk of breast cancer does increase as you age – 8 out of 10 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women aged 50 or over, and 25% of cases are in women aged 75 or over. However, this doesn’t mean that checking yourself is less important when you are younger- getting used to knowing your normal will increase the chance of noticing a change in the future. Plus, cancer can occur in younger women- 2,200 women in the UK are diagnosed aged 39 or under. So, get checking!    Causes of breast cancer in men:

      Age is the greatest risk factor – most cases are diagnosed in over 60s

      High oestrogen levels, which can be caused by:

      Obesity

      Klinefelter syndrome (*rare genetic condition where males are born with an extra female chromosome*)

      Liver conditions e.g. cirrhosis

      Prior radiation exposure

      Family history and genetics

Treatment: The treatment for breast cancer in men and transgender individuals is currently the same as women. Treatment is specific to the type and stage of cancer and abnormality of the cells. The following treatments are, however, the most common:

      Surgery

      Radiotherapy

      Chemotherapy

      Hormone therapy

      Medication to help stop the breast cancer growing

It is important to emphasise that breast cancer is not a disease affecting women only. Spreading greater awareness about the risks in men and transgender individuals, and how they too can stay informed and regularly check themselves, is crucial to catch cancer early and make treatment more successful!

Alcohol and Breast Cancer

Is there a link between breast cancer and alcohol?

 

In short, yes – there is strong evidence that alcohol can increase the risk of developing several types of cancer, including breast cancer. One drink a day carries a small risk; two or three increases the risk by 20%. Alcohol consumption is associated mostly with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

 

How does alcohol increase risk of breast cancer?

 

The link between alcohol and breast cancer is not fully understood, although there are some suggestions as to why it increases the risk of developing cancer:

 

      Alcohol is metabolised into acetaldehyde (a cancer-causing compound) in the liver and breast tissue.

      Alcohol raises oestrogen levels, and high levels of oestrogen is a recognised risk factor for breast cancer.

      Alcohol can cause weight gain – obesity is a contributing cause of breast cancer.

      Alcohol may affect the body’s immune system and the absorption of vitamins and nutrients (Breast Cancer UK).

 

 

Government Guidelines

 

 

The UK government recommends not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week on a regular basis. Ideally, you should spread your drinks over a few days and have days off drinking each week. Inside of these guidelines, the individual risk is assumed to be small (Department of Health, Alcohol Guidelines Review, 2016).

 

 

What is a unit of alcohol?

 

 

1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10ml of pure alcohol. In terms of drinks, one unit corresponds to:

      250ml of a standard 4% beer

      75ml of a standard 13% wine

      25ml of a standard 40% spirit or

      250ml of standard 4% alcopop

 

It is important to enjoy everything in moderation and in an informed manner!

How do I reduce my risk of getting breast cancer?

  • What factors increase the risk of developing cancer is a complex question but it is known to be influenced by both lifestyle and genetics. For example, some people inherit genes that increase the risk of cancer. On the other hand, there are numerous environmental factors that can contribute to this risk factor, such as smoking and obesity. Taking breast cancer as an example, up to 80% of cases are due to chance or environmental factors (figure). However, genetics and the environment are tightly intertwined, so even if you have got a predisposition to a particular cancer, healthy lifestyles and attending regular checkups are just as important.

     

    There are various things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Since being overweight is a large risk factor in cancer, maintaining a healthy balanced diet will be beneficial. For example, eat lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, but avoid foods high in sugar, red meat, and salt. Sports are also beneficial, especially in breast cancer due to the great impact of the hormone balance of the body on breast cancer development. Smoking and high alcohol consumption are also risk factors for many cancers including breast cancer.

     

    Since some cancers can be caused by viruses, keeping up to date with your vaccinations is also recommended. For example, HPV is relevant in cervical cancer and Hepatitis in liver cancer.

     

     

    When it comes to breast cancer, there are various recommendations that relate particularly to women. Firstly, if possible, breast feeding should be tried as research has shown that it has cancer reducing effects, although the aetiology is unknown. Secondly, avoiding hormone treatments during menopause has been found to be protective against cancer. Finally, hormone-based contraceptives such as the contraceptive pill is a complicated issue as it has been found to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer whilst increasing the risk of breast, liver, and cervical cancer, so the verdict is not yet out. 

What to say to someone with cancer – how can I better support the people I care about?

  • When someone we care about is diagnosed with cancer, we want to do the best we can to support them through the journey. However, often it is difficult to know what to say and what to avoid, and this can sometimes result in us not saying anything at all. Luckily, many of the wonderful people in the community have written some excellent guides and blog posts about the sort of things that they would and would not want to hear from there family and friends.
 

Below are just some of the phrases that various articles have suggested or emphasised avoiding. The list is of course not exhaustive and may not apply to every situation:

 

“I’m here for you.” 

• “Let me help you with…” 

• “You are not alone.” 

• “If you ever feel like talking, I’m here to listen.” 

• “I’m sorry this has happened to you” 

• “What day works for a visit?” 

• “You are beautiful.” 

• “I care about you” 

• “There are so many things to love about you.” 

• “Did you see the latest episode?”

 

And here are some less useful phrases that you should avoid:

 

• “I know just how you feel” 

• “Don’t worry” 

• “How long do you have?” 

• “I’m sure you’ll be just fine” 

• “look on the bright side / just be positive” 

• it may not be helpful to share the stories of other people you 

• “have you tried….?” 

• “Remember there’s always someone worse off than you”

 

And remember, non-verbal communication can be just as powerful as verbal communication. Comfortable silences, attentive listening, body language, and facial expressions are tools that can be used.

 

How is breast cancer treated?

  • Treatment will depend on the grade and type of tumour. Surgical management includes either tumour excision, where the tumour tissue is removed from the breast, leaving the breast in place afterwards, or a mastectomy whereby all the breast tissue is removed followed by optional reconstruction immediately or at a later date.

     

    There are also adjuvant therapies that the doctors will consider, including chemotherapies and radiotherapy, again depending on the grade of tumour but also on other particular features. For example, some of the monoclonal antibodies used in breast cancer chemotherapies relies on the presence of the HER2 receptor in the tumour cells, leading to the idea of personalised medicine. Indeed, a crucial part of the cancer care pathway in the UK involves sending samples of tumours to a genetic sequencing laboratory in America, and here they identify markers that make the cancer more or less susceptible to certain therapies so the correct and most effective treatment is given. 

 

What is metastatic/secondary breast cancer?

  • Secondary breast cancer occurs when tumour cells spread from the primary site (the breast) via the blood or lymphatic vessels to another part of the body, most commonly the liver, brain, bones, and lungs. This can occur months or years after the original diagnosis. The management involves similar therapies to the treatment of primary breast cancer – surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone therapy. 

 

Our charities

We are proud to be supporting Coppafeel! It is the first breast cancer charity in the UK to have its central focus be raising awareness among young people. They aim to equip young people with life-saving knowledge and tools for detecting breast cancer as early as possible, with their team of Boobettes giving inspiring talks and their positive core values of normalising both symptom checks and young people’s experiences with cancer powerfully spreading a strong and positive sense of empowerment.

 

Future Dreams, founded by a mother and daughter, works to provide practical support for those dealing with their diagnosis, with an adapted campaign over the pandemic that distributed care packages to thousands. They run a breast cancer support centre, that gives visitors holistic advice and support that is working to build up a community of solidarity.

Breast Cancer UK focuses on the prevention of breast cancer through education, scientific research, collaboration and policy change. They believe in the ability to reduce rates of breast cancer through lifestyle changes, and they fund research into this crucial prevention. They also campaign for policies and processes to put prevention at the heart of addressing the disease, and in doing so aim to reduce breast cancer rates in the UK by a quarter.

 

Teenage Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to helping 13 to 24 year olds diagnosed with cancer receive specialized care and support. Young people are at the heart of everything they do and they ensure young people do not face cancer alone, recognising that this age group experience a unique set of challenges in the face of diagnosis.

 

Glossary

Thank you to Breast Cancer Now for producing this incredibly informative glossary!

This year's Pink Week flyers!

Pink Week Flyers from last year!

Pink Week Flyers from 2020!