Women's Health Friday October 2, 2015

Be Breast Cancer Aware: What To Check For

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month all through October. If you don't already examine your breasts for abnormalities, it's time to start. Breast cancer is one of the few cancers we can sometimes spot without blood tests.

But it's easier said than done isn't it? Pawing at yourself like an overexcited 18 year will not lead to any discoveries. It needs to be done properly, and it helps to be aware what you are checking for.

First off, here are some facts.

Each year 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer. That's right – people - not just women. Men can develop breast cancer too. t's quite rare with only around 400 men getting a diagnosis each year. On the other hand, 1 in every 8 British women will develop breast cancer. That's a mind-boggling statistic. At least one girl you are friends with is likely to get breast cancer. It could be you.

Breast cancer is the second most frequent cancer in the UK and 12,000 people die from it every year.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • A change in size or shape of the breast

  • Redness or a rash around the nipple

  • Discharge from the nipple that comes without squeezing

  • Swelling in the armpit and around the collarbone

  • A lump or thickening in the breast that feels different from the rest

  • A change in skin texture like puckering or orange peel

  • A change in nipple shape such as inverted nipple

  • Constant pain in the breast or armpit

Breast Cancer Care have a great infographic to help you check your breasts; make sure you take a look.

It's important to realise that you aren't just looking for a lump in your breast. Skin changes, pain and thickening in your breasts, armpits and collarbone area can all be signs of cancer.

What Are the Risk Factors?

  • Gender: Women are more likely to get breast cancer than men because they have more breast tissue.

  • Age: The risk increases as you age. 80% of breast cancer occurs in women over 50.

  • Family History: It not a big indicator but 5% of those diagnosed have a family history of breast cancer.

What To Do If You Find Something

You should always, always see your GP.

Breast changes are common. They change size, shape and feel as we age but whenever you find something you're not sure is not right, make an appointment straight away. In fact, even if you're sure it's nothing - make an appointment. With 1 in 8 women developing breast cancer you really can't be too careful.

The good news is that 85% of people diagnosed with breast cancer survive beyond 5 years. It all depends on swift treatment though. If you ignore any breast changes and they are cancerous, then the cancer may spread through your lymphatic system to your spine, bladder, brain - any part of your body you can think of. It's not worth taking a risk. Head burying is not an option.

I know it's scary to get breast lumps, bumps, pain, swelling and skin changes checked out but that's a lot less scary than being told you've left it too late.

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