Synaesthesia Magazine Science & Numbers - Page 43

that I could understand this disease and more importantly, why I'd got it. Turns out you'll never know, and that's something you have to come to terms with if you're one of the unlucky ones. In May, Cancer Research UK published new figures showing that one in five younger women under 50 will now get breast cancer. If you go on a night out with your mates, or look around your office, statistically, someone is likely to get breast cancer. And it could be you. How the hell can you protect yourself?

Quite simply, you can't. There are risk factors that increase your chances of getting breast cancer; alcohol, stress, hormone contraceptives, (by the way, I was working 60 hours a week, red wine is an essential part of a teacher's survival kit, and I was using a progesterone-only contraceptive when diagnosed), your genes, a family history, your weight and height, smoking, diabetes, chest X-rays, dense breast tissue, your ethnic group, when your periods started, when you had your first child, shift work... it's dizzying, and a little bit terrifying. It's important to remember these are all risk factors, not causes, and science has a clear idea of the difference between those two things even if the Daily Mail doesn't (The Anorak has an extensive A-Z compilation of all the Daily Mail's cancer causing scare stories, I refer to it when I need a laugh).

So, what can you do? You can check yourself regularly. That's it. Finding cancer early and getting it treated is the only thing you can do to protect yourself. During my pre-radiotherapy appointment, the consultant told me to check myself every week. Most advice is to check yourself once a month, but who actually does? I know I didn't. In fact, I wouldn't have found my lump at all if I hadn't bumped into another friend of mine who'd just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer. We were at a mutual friend's engagement party, and she told me to go home and check myself. That advice probably saved my life; my tumour was detected early and it hadn't spread.

To pay it forward, because I feel pretty lucky, I started an awareness campaign aimed at younger women, and also the boys too, because testicular cancer is on the rise. It's the most common cancer in men aged 15-35. I want people to check themselves every week and view it as a normal part of their weekly health or beauty regime. It's not something to be feared. Cancer isn't an evil monster waiting to get you. It's one of your own cells developing a fault and replicating warped versions of itself because it didn't get the message that it was meant to die. One of those in-depth scientific reports I read,

Cancer isn't an evil monster waiting to get you. It's one of your own cells developing a fault and replicating warped versions of itself because it didn't get the message that it was meant to die