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18/10/2021

'It is crucial to be breast aware' - Cancer survivors warn other women

'It is crucial to be breast aware' - Cancer survivors warn other women

Catriona Kavanagh (left) and Grace Slattery (right)

Breast cancer survivors from around the country are urging women to join the Care for Your Pair movement, learn the warning signs for breast cancer and speak to two loved ones about breast health. 

To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Irish Cancer Society’s new early detection campaign aims to get Ireland talking about breast health and the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

Grace Slattery from Galway was studying for her final exams to become an advanced paramedic when she noticed some stiffening in her breast. She regrets ignoring the symptoms for a number of months, which led to her undergoing a double mastectomy and extensive treatment.

“I do think if I had got myself checked at the start when I initially found the changes in my breast that I would have probably been able to avoid all of that hassle. I’ve been incredibly lucky since then, but everyone thinks it won’t happen to them and I was definitely one of those. Checking your breasts is so important, and to know your body and know what’s usual for you,” she says.

Mum of one, Catriona Kavanagh (38) was also diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2019, just one week after she discovered a lump under her right breast. She firmly believes that acting quickly, and visiting her GP immediately, contributed hugely to her positive outcome. She urges all women to be aware of their own bodies and to seek immediate medical advice if they notice anything out of the ordinary.

“Early detection is the best treatment out there. You know your own body - so if you notice anything unusual at all, go get it checked out. Care for your pair, chat to your friends and family too and encourage them to know the signs and symptoms and to act quickly if they notice anything unusual at all,” she says.

Prab Brar (34), who is from India and lives in Maynooth, is also supporting the Care for you Pair campaign. She recently underwent a full mastectomy and admits that she is finding it hard to deal with the aftermath of a breast cancer diagnosis. She urges women across Ireland to care for their pair, by being breast aware.

“Cancer took a lot more from me than I expected- it has impacted me emotionally, physically and financially as well. When you complete treatment, people expect you to be normal, but it all affects you and stays with you- I have found the whole process really difficult. Please check yourself regularly, and visit your GP if you notice anything. I don’t want any other women to go through what I have been through.”

More than 3,600 women and around 40 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Ireland. It is more common in women over 50, but it is important to breast aware at every age.

Aileen McHale, Cancer Information Services Manager at the Irish Cancer Society said: “It is crucial that all women are breast aware at every stage of life. We are delighted to launch this year’s breast cancer awareness campaign, ‘Care for your Pair’, encouraging the women of Ireland to check themselves and talk to two friends about breast health, because early detection of breast cancer increases treatment options and ultimately saves lives. If you notice anything unusual, such as changes in breast/armpit shape or texture, unexplained fatigue or unexplained weight loss please visit your GP without delay”.

The Society is also encouraging the public to support the ‘Care for Your Pair’ campaign by making a donation or hosting a fundraiser to fund vital breast cancer research and services support this October.  There are a number of ways to get involved, including: making a donation or by hosting a virtual collection or fundraiser, visit www.cancer.ie/careforyourpair for more information.

All funds raised through ‘Care for your Pair’ will go directly to support breast cancer patients like Grace, Catriona and Prab, by providing crucial cancer services, such as the Irish Cancer Society Support Line, Driver service, Night Nursing service and free counselling.

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