Attitudes to taboo subject under scrutiny at west Norfolk hospital

Filers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, to go with stories about the vomiting bug and ward closures.

Filers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, to go with stories about the vomiting bug and ward closures. Pictured: ambulances outside the ambulance station at the QEH.PHOTO: IAN BURTCOPY:FOR:EDP NewsEDP pics © 2008(01603)772434 - Credit: IAN BURT

It's a condition that has left many women feeling dirty, embarrassed, depressed and degraded.

But attitudes to the taboo subject of under-breast soreness are now being changed.

Marilyn O'Connell, an assistant practitioner at the breast screening unit at King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, has written a leaflet explaining the condition and what to do.

It's now being offered to patients and other hospitals across the UK are following suit.

Mrs O'Connell said: 'The main thing for me was raising awareness of this issue and getting a better understanding of it out there.

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'For many women this is a taboo subject and I want to change that. Some women get depressed about it, some feel dirty and one or two have asked if it is the start of breast cancer.

'I have heard of women who use sanitary towels among other things under their breasts to protect this very sore area.

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'We see cases of the rash among women within our unit who attend for screening. In some cases, the rash is so sore that the process of having a mammogram can break the skin. This can be problematic when we are trying to x-ray the entire breast area.

'There are commonly available products out there that can make a big difference to not only the under-breast area but also to the woman's wellbeing. I see this as a holistic approach.'

Mrs O'Connell, who lives in Lynn and joined the hospital in 2007, hopes the leaflet will help women try different products to see which works for them.

The condition, which usually affects women with larger breasts or who are sporty, can be caused by sweat rash, skin to skin rubbing and the growth of yeast in the skin folds. This is more commonly known as Intertrigo.

Mrs O'Connell and the team at the breast screening unit completed an eight-week research study on the topic. The results showed more than half of women had never heard of Intertrigo and 90pc had never seen any information on it.

Mrs O'Connell's work has been recognised by the Society of Radiographers, and she will pick up her Radiographer of the Year (Eastern region) award next month.

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