Breast Cancer Signs and Self Check Steps

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and as it is the second most common cancer diagnosis in Ireland, we are here to help you get Breast Aware and check for early signs of Breast Cancer.

One in nine women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis with 3,700 new cases being diagnosed each year. Unfortunately, over 600 women a year are dying as a result of breast cancer, however while incident rates are rising, mortality rates have been declining by 2% annually.

While it is more common in women over the age of 70 (36%) and aged 50 to 69 (34%), 23% of all breast cancer diagnosis are in women between 20-50 years, according to Breast Cancer Ireland.

Breast Cancer does not just occur in women with 37 men a year diagnosed, that’s 1 in 100!

Breast Cancer Statistics and Signs

The Marie Keating Foundation’s Breast Cancer Awareness 5-point Code advises:

  1. Know what is Normal for you
  2. Know what changes to Look and Feel for
  3. Look and Feel for Changes
  4. Report Any Changes to your Doctor without Delay
  5. Attend Routine Breast Screenings if you are 50-64 years of age

Getting to know your breasts or becoming Breast Aware is the best thing you can to in helping to spot any early signs of Breast Cancer. No two breasts are the same and as women your breast can change at different times of the month due to hormones. Knowing what is normal for you is the first step in being breast aware.

The main signs and symptoms of Breast cancer are:

  • A lump, thickening or bumpy areas in the breast or armpit that seem different from other breast tissue. (Always consult your GP if you discover any new lumps)
  • Any changes in the size, shape or feel of the breast – one may become lower than the other
  • Changes to the nipple – crusting, ulceration, bleeding
  • Change in the direction or shape of the nipple – retraction or inversion.
  • Discharge from one or both of your nipples.
  • Red scaly rash on one nipple
  • Dimpling (like an orange peel) of the skin – can also present as puckering or redness
  • Unusual Swelling in either armpits or around your collarbone.
  • Soreness or warmth in one or both breasts
Breast Cancer Signs, Breast Aware

Once you familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer it is then time to familiarise yourself with your own breasts. In Ireland women over the age of 50 are offered free breast screening which involves a mammogram. These screenings continue every two years up until the age of 69. However there are current talks about decreasing the age for free breast screenings.

To check your eligibility or enquire about your free breast screening Freephone 1800 45 45 55 or check the register here.

Breast changes can occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle, while breast feeding or throughout menopause. That is why it is important to know your breasts, know what is normal for you and to conduct regular self-checks.

Easy Breast Self-Check Steps:

  • Using a mirror look and inspect your breasts. With arms by your side, then raise your arms to check for any changes or dimpling. Lean over to check for any changes in size, inflammation, or enlargement.
  • Lying Down, use opposite hand to breast. Using three fingertips, the index finger, ring finger and middle finger, start from the centre of your breast and work yourself outward in small circular motions, applying pressure to check for any lumps or changes.
  • Cover the entire area of the breast, from the collarbone to below the breast, the space in between your breasts and along the armpits.
  • Repeat with your free arm bent behind your head.
  • Repeat standing in the shower with soap making it easier to move and feel tissue or lumps.
  • Compress/Squeeze nipples to check for any discharge (unless breastfeeding)

Note any changes and contact your GP with ANY concerns.

Breast Self Check Steps

Breast Self-checks should be conducted monthly by anyone over the age of 20. The opportune time to conduct a breast self-check is 7-10 days after a menstrual period.

Survival rates in Breast Cancer in Ireland have increased to 85% due to increased awareness and breast screening.  At present there are over 2,500 women in Ireland who have survived Breast Cancer.

Nine out of 10 breast changes are not an indication or result of cancer however it is always important to consult you GP if you notice any changes.

5 Tips to Stay Safe Online

The internet has the capabilities of enriching all of our lives, but it also has the capabilities to do quite the opposite. With hacks, scams, malware, and cybercriminals lurking dangerously in the shadows, you can never be too safe on the internet.

The recent hack of the HSE has highlighted that even the most robust layers of security can be penetrated. The good news is we have 5 tips for you today on how to stay safe online and greatly reduce exposure to the threats listed above.

1 – Create strong passwords

We know you’ve heard it all before, but creating strong, complex and unique passwords for all your accounts is probably the best way to keep all your personal information safe and secure.

One of the biggest concerns in the modern era for internet security is hackers. They tend to target companies and the Government and the subsequent data breach that may come from that could reveal hundreds of thousands of user passwords. If all your passwords are the same, across a host of websites and accounts, the hacker can take your leaked password(s) and access all your accounts. You can counter this by having different passwords for every account. A password book, where you physically have to write in your passwords, will assist you in not having to remember them all off the top of your head.

2 – Be careful what you download

Unfortunately, there is a significant number of malicious websites out there on the web. A malicious website is a site that seeks to install malware on your device. This malware can possibly gather your personal information and allow unauthorised access to the machine you are using.

Having anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your computer can defend against these kind of threats. There is free antivirus software available online, but truth be told they may not be as effective as one you pay for. You can get very good anti-virus software for less than €25 a year.

Some common malware symptoms include: strange ads or pop-up windows appearing on your computer and a sudden lack of storage space.

3 – Know how to spot phishing emails

I think we have all at some point in our life received an email claiming that if you reply or click a link, you will be instantly given €500,000 or some other ridiculous prize. Those are the easy to spot phishing emails.

Phishing emails have evolved over time and become far more sophisticated. Some phishing emails will be disguised as looking legitimate, may even come from a legitimate looking email address and have graphics corresponding to the company they are pretending to be.

Some tips to spot these kind of emails include:
• The sender’s email address doesn’t match the company
• Typos
• The email contains multiple requests to click on a link
• Requests for personal information

Banks, financial institutions and Government Departments will never ask for personal information such as bank details over email.

If you are unsure whether an email is phishing, simply call up the person or company that would be behind the email to confirm its legitimacy.

4 – Watch what you post on social media

We live in an age of social media where all major milestones in one’s life is posted online. However, its very easy to share personal information online unintentionally. It could be as simple as sharing a picture of your driver’s licence to show you passed your driving test or talking a picture of you working with personal information visible on the screen. Scan your eyes over any images before you upload them.

5 – Only shop on secure sites

Online shopping has taken major strides in recent times but that does not mean it’s always safe. One of the best indicators of a safe website is one that is running HTTPS, which means the site has a security certificate that safeguards visitors’ personal information by encrypting their data. You are able to check whether a side runs on HTTPS by double-clicking on the padlock in the top left corner beside the URL.

Article written by:

Peter Farrelly is part of the Digital Marketing team within Servisource Workforce Solutions.

How to support your staff living with diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the blood sugar level is too high. While there are various forms, the most common are type one and two.

Type one diabetes is an autoimmune condition diagnosed in early childhood while type two is a metabolic disorder usually brought on by lifestyle choices.

While there’s no cure for diabetes, there are steps that those living with it can take to manage their condition and live a healthy life.

According to the Irish Times, almost a quarter of a million people in Ireland are living with diabetes. 10 to 15% of which are type one diabetes and with the rest being type two.

Diabetes is considered a disability as it’s a long-term condition that affects the sufferer’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day tasks.

Within the work setting, while it can be difficult for employees to open up about their condition, when they do, there are adjustments you can make their working life a bit easier.

Diabetes and the law

In Ireland, the Employment Equality Act 1998 is the main legislation the prevents discrimination and encourages equality in the workplace. The law prohibits discrimination on nine grounds one of which is on the grounds of discrimination.

According to the legislation, discrimination occurs when one person is treated less favourable than another is, has been or would be treated. As well as the prohibition of discrimination, the legislation also places a duty of care on employers.

The obligation requires you to provide reasonable adjustments by taking appropriate measures to enable an individual with a disability have access to employment, participate and advance in employment and to undergo appropriate training.

Apart from your legal obligations, there are other practical considerations in relation to managing employees with diabetes.

Amongst your top considerations should be:

  • The stability of the condition and the type of treatment being received
  • Any activity being carried out that might result in risks
  • Control measures for any risk identified
  • Options for lone working and flexible working

Supporting employees with diabetes

While your staff isn’t required to inform you of their disability, when they do, you may have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to allow them to manage their disability and perform effectively at their job.

The term ‘reasonable adjustment’ is broad and will depend on the specific circumstance of your employee. Below we’ll go through some adjustments you can make around the workplace and to the work process.

Privacy: Part of living with diabetes means your employee might need to take medication, injections or test their blood sugar level at specific times. Any of these can be quite personal so you may need to make provisions for somewhere private they can attend to these needs.

Working hours and breaks: In an effort to manage their diabetes, employees living with the disease will need to take medication (including injections), test their blood glucose level, etc at various times through the day. It’s important to allow for flexibility with their working hours and breaks as they may need to do this several times while at work. Depending on how the condition affects them and the complications it presents, they may need time off to attend hospital appointments and check-ups.

Working equipment: You may need to review elements of your employee’s role when they inform you of their condition. Consider carrying out a risk assessment to identify any activities they might undertake that’d affect their condition

Raising awareness: It’s also important for other staff members to understand diabetes and how it can affect their colleagues. It’s helpful as it allows other members of staff to understand diabetes, recognise the symptoms and offer support when needed.


Alan Hickey is an experienced consultant in employment law, HR and health and safety with a demonstrated history of working in business consultancy. He is a member of the Employment Law Association of Ireland and Chairman of the Chambers Ireland Employment Workplace & Skills Taskforce.

A Vision for Healthcare Assistants in Ireland

The Alliance of Health Care Assistants (AHCAI) came into being in 2015 and hopes to change the status quo for this discipline.  We are a membership organisation for healthcare assistants founded by a small group of healthcare assistant, and laypeople who valued the care they received when family members were in need.   Healthcare assistants make up 50% of the board of directors and 50% of the executive council. The AHCAI are working to raise the profile of the Healthcare Assistant and create a career path.  We are seeking registration/regulation for this discipline, so it can stand shoulder to shoulder in recognition and respect with other disciplines in the healthcare sector.   AHCAI represents Healthcare Assistants in all sectors of the service.  It is a not-for-profit company and registered charity.

AHCAI is involved with an industry led consortium of private healthcare providers and Griffith College the coordinating provider, in preparing a two-year apprenticeship program at Higher Certificate level 6, for healthcare assistants. It is an industry led apprenticeship during which healthcare assistants will acquire a greater knowledge of health and illness, work autonomously and become competent in a range of clinical and social care skills to assist the registered nurse.  The proposal was accepted by the Apprenticeship Council and announced, alongside twenty or so other apprenticeships, by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton on 8th December 2017.  The course will begin early in 2020. 

The next step in the process is to seek regulation for this higher-grade of healthcare assistant so that they will have a national scope and code of practice and ethics.  The higher-grade healthcare assistants will be responsible for their own practice.  All this is coming about in consultation with healthcare assistants rather than having decisions made about them without them.

Looking into the future AHCAI intends to seek a national standard of training and registration for existing level 5 qualified healthcare assistants and regulation for higher certificate healthcare assistant.  This in fact, is creating a career path for the discipline.  It is intended that this discipline will become attractive to school leavers choosing their future career.

When Healthcare assistants were first employed in numbers, they were distinguished from home helps by the fact that their duties were ‘hands on’ tasks for the care recipient, showering, dressing, feeding etc., while home helps carried out domestic tasks, cooking, cleaning, shopping. The work has become blended in the past ten years.  Healthcare assistants are, in some cases, being offered multitask contracts, where they can be requested to work with the care recipient or carry out housekeeping tasks.  This practice is not ideal as it can lead to poor infection prevention and control

AHCAI keeps Healthcare Assistants informed through Facebook and Twitter.  We offer free CPD courses on the members section of the website for which a certificate of course completion is issued.  Our first conference was held in Dublin last February and our second conference will be held in the Kingsley Hotel, Cork City in February 2020.  Tickets will cost €10. and will be available from Eventbrite at a later date.  The theme will be Working to Build a Better Future for Healthcare Assistants

The Alliance aims to be the voice of the healthcare assistant, uniting them and assisting them in forming a career path, raising their status through training and regulation/registration and having them recognised as a valued discipline in the health service. 

Visit our web site and give us your support to continue to grow and develop the healthcare assistant discipline.  Application for membership can be made through the website, our membership fee is €15.00 for the year.