It is very important to be aware of the risk of breast cancer because it is now the most common cancer in the UK. Up to a quarter of cases of invasive breast cancer may have been preventable if detected early.
Who gets breast cancer?
More women than men are affected by this condition, around 55 thousand women each year in the UK alone, but it can also affect men. In total around 150 cases are diagnosed every day in the UK. One in 5 of these cases are women under 50 years old. So we probably all know a few people who have been affected.
What is the survival rate?
The statistics show almost 80% of people with breast cancer survive 10 years or longer after diagnosis. This is a much better survival rate than many other types of cancer, so although it is much more common it causes fewer deaths than some other cancers. This is partly due to the national screening programme in the UK. Women between the age of 50 to 70 years are called for a test called a mammogram every 3 years to ensure any breast cancer is detected early. But things can change within the three-year gap, and some people (e.g. women under 50 years and all men) are not covered at all by this national screening, so we all need to be vigilant.
What can we do about it?
We should all be self-examining regularly (once per month) so we can be familiar with what is normal for our bodies and be able to spot any changes. If you are unsure how to examine your breasts visit your doctor who can show you. Breasts are normally lumpy tissues so if you have never done this before and have not had a recent mammogram you will need to have any lumps or other variations checked out by a doctor. After that just keep checking that everything remains the same as it was and just let a doctor know of any changes. If you are a woman who is still having periods the best time to check is the week after the period finishes (mid-cycle). If you don’t have periods try using the 1st of the month to make sure you don’t forget.
What do I need to look out for?
Most of us understand that a new lump is suspicious and should be checked out, but most people are unaware that some breast cancer can cause other signs without any lumps. Any of the following should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible:
- New lump (although 90% lumps are NOT cancer)
- Change in size, shape or feel of the breast
- Breast or armpit pain
- Skin changes such as eczema or change in skin appearance such as a dimple or puckering
- Nipple changes including deviation or inversion
- Nipple discharge especially if blood-stained
- Inflammation of the breast (a rare form of breast cancer is called Inflammatory breast cancer and may look like mastitis. If you are not breastfeeding, this needs urgent assessment.)
How can I reduce my risk of breast cancer?
Some risk factors for breast cancer, such as family history and increasing age, we can do nothing about. But there are some major risk factors that play a key role in this type of cancer that we could definitely improve, including:
- Watch your weight: being overweight increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Stick to the recommended limit of 14 units of alcohol each week. The risk increases with every extra unit after this.
- Give up smoking: this increases the risk of all cancers.
- Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk significantly.
- For women: consider the risks of combined HRT (oestrogen and progesterone), which leads to a small increase in risk especially if taken for more than 5 years, but note the risk is less than that caused by obesity. Oestrogen-only HRT can reduce the risk by a similarly small amount.
FREE EVENT where you can hear more:
Please join us for our breast Health education evening with Mr. Jalal Kokan, The Spire Regency. This FREE event explains breast self-examination and also the risks with family history.
Thursday 11th October
Pinches Medical & Wellbeing
Charles Roe House, 62 Chestergate, Macclesfield
7.45pm – 8.30pm
Reserve your place on:
For more information call 01625 704777 www.pinches.life