Prevent Breast Cancer

Posted on: 16 October 2009 by Mark O'haire

October is breast cancer awareness month.

Awareness is about becoming familiar with your normal breast tissue and how it changes, for example if you are taking HRT your breasts will feel firmer and sometimes sore.  Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts from time to time.

The following 5 point code is key for Breast Cancer Awareness:

  1. Know what is normal for you.
  2. Know what changes to look and feel for.
  3. Look and feel.
  4. Report any changes to your GP.
  5. Attend routine breast screening - this is free on the NHS for anyone over the age of 50. 

What To Look Out For

  1. A change in size – it may be that one breast has become noticeably larger or noticeably lower.
  2. A nipple has become inverted (pulled in) or changed its position or shape.
  3. A rash around the nipple.
  4. Discharge from one or both nipples.
  5. Puckering or dimpling of the skin.
  6. A swelling under your armpit or around your collarbone (where the lymph nodes or glands are).
  7. A lump or thickening in your breast that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue.
  8. Constant pain in one part of your breast or in your armpit.

What shall I do if I find a change?

You will know better than anyone how your breasts feel and look normally, so if you do notice a change, see your GP as soon as possible. Don’t worry that you may be making an unnecessary fuss, and remember that most breast changes will be benign (non-cancerous) and harmless.

When your GP examines your breasts s/he may be able to reassure you that there is nothing to worry about. (If s/he thinks the change may be connected with your hormones, your GP may ask you to come back at a different time in your menstrual cycle.)

Alternatively, s/he may decide to send you to a breast clinic for a more detailed examination. For more information about benign breast problems, what happens at a breast clinic and the tests used to make a diagnosis, see Breast Cancer Care’s booklet ‘Making a diagnosis: breast problems and breast cancer.

If you are still not convinced then take a look at these statistics:

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women – 1 in 4 of all cancers occur in the breast
  • The lifetime risk is 1 in 9
  • Over 38,000 women are diagnosed each year
  • 13,100 women die each year
  • There is a continuing decline in the mortality figures but an increase in incidence
  • 80% of breast cancers occur in post-menopausal women
  • Over 8,000 pre-menopausal women are diagnosed each year
  • Only 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary/family history
  • 9 out of 10 breast lumps are not a sign of breast cancer
  • 90% of breast cancers are first spotted by women themselves or their partners

Breast cancer in men in the UK:

  • 1% of those diagnosed with breast cancer are men
  • 250 men are diagnosed each year
  • The majority of men who get breast cancer are over 60 years old

Make sure you are doing all you can to prevent this disease and support the Breast Cancer Care charity by buying a pink ribbon.

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