With October marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub takes a closer look at the country’s most common cancer and what people can do to recognise the signs and symptoms.
Around 62,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, including 4,700 in Scotland. Whilst the disease predominately affects women, men can be diagnosed too. Approximately 400 men in Britain are diagnosed with the illness each year.
Like all cancers, the key to successful treatment and full recovery is an early diagnosis. The condition has a 78% survival rate at 10 years, with survival rates higher for those who are diagnosed earlier and lower for those who are not diagnosed until a later stage.
Breast Cancer: Key Information Guide for Women
Touch, Look and Check
Everyone’s breasts are different, and can change with age and at different times of the month. Nobody knows your body better than you, so it’s important to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel so it will be easier to spot if there are any unusual changes.
Most breast changes won’t be cancer but it’s important to report anything different or new to your doctor as soon as possible and get it checked out. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment may be.
There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts, it’s as simple as TLC; Touch, Look, Check. It could be when you get dressed, or when you’re bathing, showering or putting on moisturiser – just as long as you do it regularly and remember to check the whole breast and the surrounding area, including the upper chest and armpits.
What Should I Look Out For?
Most cases of breast cancer are found by women noticing unusual changes, taking the initiative and visiting their doctor. A common sign of breast cancer is a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit. You might feel the lump, but not see it. Remember most lumps in the breast are not cancerous, but it’s always important to get it checked out.
Other signs and symptoms include changes in the size of shape of the breast, a change in skin texture (for example puckering or dimpling of the skin), a change in the colour of the breast (it may look red or inflamed), changes to the nipple (including a rash or crusting) or any unusual discharge from either nipple.
What Should I Do If I Suspect Any of the Above Signs?
Make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible if you have any concerns in relation to the above signs or symptoms. Remember, the sooner you get checked out the better things will be, either in terms of putting your might at rest or getting the right treatment.
Your GP will look at and examine your breasts at the appointment. If they’re not sure what’s causing the lump or symptoms, they will refer you to a hospital or breast clinic for further tests.
In most cases, tests show the lumps or symptoms are not caused by breast cancer. Lumps in the breasts can have lots of different causes. Most are due to something harmless, such as a non-cancerous tissue growth (fibroadenoma) or a build-up of fluid (breast cyst).
But sometimes they can be a sign of something serious, such as breast cancer. So it’s important that you don’t try to self-diagnose the cause of a lump and to see a GP.
To support the fight against breast cancer, you can wear a pink ribbon or simply wear something pink during the month of October. Alternatively or additionally, you can also donate to organisations such as Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Now.
Breast Cancer Now, which rebranded and relaunched in April 2019, is a national charity which provides information about the disease and what can be done to support the fight against breast cancer.
More information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer can be sourced by visiting www.breastcancernow.org. Advice and information is also available by contacting the organisation’s free helpline on 0808 800 6000.
Further information can also be obtained through following the progress and advice of TV personality Lorraine Kelly’s Check Campaign, which was launched in 2019 to encourage women to check for signs and symptoms of breast cancer.