Posted on: September 15, 2020 at 5:48 pm

With our busy lives, it’s easy to neglect our own health. Balancing work, family, and a social life, meanwhile trying to take care of all the little things in between, can sometimes be a near-impossible task.  For this reason when things pop up- an ache here, a pain there, a small bump or unexplained itch- we tend to ignore it, hoping it’ll just go away on its own. After being diagnosed with postpartum breast cancer, one woman from the UK is begging people not to do that.

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Postpartum Breast Cancer

In a Facebook video that has now been shared over one thousand times, forty-year-old Claire Milling explained that she is going to have to leave her children without her forever.

“Please don’t let that be you,” she pleaded [1].

It all began when Milling found a lump in her armpit. She was three months pregnant with her now seven-month-old boy, Elliot. She thought perhaps it was just a weird change happening to her body because of pregnancy, but to be safe she called her doctor.

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Her GP confirmed her suspicions. They said that it was just a swollen gland in her armpit, and blocked ducts in her breasts due to pregnancy. The rest of her pregnancy continued without any issues, and Milling gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

It wasn’t until then, however, that she began to notice something else was wrong. Breast feeding had come fairly naturally to her with her other two children, five-year-old Sebastian and two-year-old Olivia. She was only producing milk out of her left breast.

“I said to the nurse at the time, ‘I am not getting any milk out of my right breast. It is really hard. It is solid.’” [1]

The nurse advised her to try massaging it and to continue breastfeeding, saying that the duct was probably just clogged. She continued to have difficulties breastfeeding, but once COVID-19 lockdowns began, she didn’t want to bother the already overworked doctors and nurses.

When she noticed that her right nipple was inverted, however, she thought she’d better get it checked out. She went for a series of tests in June, which produced the result that no one ever wants to hear: she had postpartum breast cancer.

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By the time she was diagnosed, cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes in her right arm, the left side of her neck, her ribs, and behind her lungs. She has undergone two rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy and has four more rounds to go. That will hopefully buy her some time, but sadly her postpartum breast cancer is not curable.

How to do a Self-Examination

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, you can perform a self-assessment three ways:

In the shower: use the pads of your three middle fingers to check the entire breast and armpit area. Press down with light, medium, and firm pressure on both breasts once per month. Feel for any lump, thickening, hardened knot, or other breast changes.

In front of the mirror: visually check your breasts first with your arms at your sides, then with your arms raised overhead. Look for any changes in shape, swelling, dimpling, or changes in the nipples. Then, place your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles. Your breasts will likely not match perfectly, but you want to look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

Lying down: place a pillow under your right shoulder and right arm behind your head. Using your opposite hand, use the pads of your fingers to gently cover the entire breast and armpit area. Use light, medium, and firm pressure to squeeze the nipple. Watch out for discharge and lumps. Repeat the process on the other side.

Mammograms can detect tumors before you can feel them, so screening is also very important for early detection. When combined with regular medical check-ups, self-assessments can help you understand what is normal for you. This way, you can report any changes to your doctor.

According to John Hopkins Medical center, forty percent of all diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump. For this reason, it is very important to establish a regular routine of checking your breasts for any changes [2].

Read: New Breast Cancer Test Could Detect Cancer 5 Years Earlier

Be Selfish About You Health

Millings said in her video that her diagnosis has hit her family hard. She wishes that she could turn back time and be pushier about getting checked, but she cannot. For now, she is trying to focus her energy on spending time with her husband and kids. 

She is also trying to spread awareness to others. 

“I made up a lot of excuses why I didn’t (check myself). I’ve got three children. I don’t have time to check myself. I’m in the shower, I’m out, I’m done, which is fair, we all do that,” she said in the video [1].

She is now urging people to stop making excuses about not checking themselves. She says that if she had been more vigilant, she would have still had the opportunity to raise her children.

“I used to say to myself, ‘Oh my God, I am dying for a wee’ and then I would hold it for like hours because I wouldn’t want to leave the children by themselves. And the irony in that now is that I’m going to leave the children without me forever.” [1]

Keep Reading: Researchers say blood test can detect cancer years before symptoms

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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