Tips on breast can­cer sig­nals

The People - - LIFESTYLE -

Dur­ing Oc­to­ber, which is Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month, 5,000 peo­ple will be told they have the disease.

Here is a lowdown from Dr Nagete Boukhezra, a Gen­eral Prac­ti­tioner at the Pri­vate GP, Lon­don Doc­tors Clinic, on how to spot the na­tion’s most com­mon form of can­cer.

How do I self-check and which ar­eas are easy to miss? Breast can­cer is of­ten de­tected by women them­selves. It is vi­tal they reg­u­larly do a self-ex­am­i­na­tion to en­sure they are fa­mil­iar with their breasts.

This should be done each month, ideally at the end of your pe­riod when the breast is not swollen. The ex­am­i­na­tion only takes a few min­utes. Be­gin by ly­ing on your back, en­sur­ing your breast is as flat on your chest as pos­si­ble.

Start with the right side, put the arm be­hind your head and, us­ing your left hand, move your fin­gers – which should be flat and close to­gether – around your right breast gen­tly in a cir­cu­lar mo­tion, start­ing at the out­side and mov­ing to­wards the cen­tre.

Check the en­tire breast in­clud­ing the armpit area and change the pres­sure from light to deep to as­sess each level of tis­sue.

Ex­am­ine the armpits and col­lar bones and check your nip­ples for any dis­charge as lumps can hide beneath the nip­ple. Re­peat with the left breast.

What should I check for, what does a lump feel like? Lumps can be solid or soft, un­mov­able or mov­able and range from pea-sized to much larger, as well as vary in lev­els of pain. The only way to re­ally know if the lump is be­nign is to seek med­i­cal ad­vice.

What other symp­toms should I look out for? These in­clude changes in the breast size and shape, swelling in your armpits and col­lar bones, changes to skin tex­ture or a rash and in­verted nip­ples or nip­ple dis­charge.

What should you do if you no­tice any of these symp­toms or dis­cover a lump? If you find a lump, don’t panic. Eight out of ten lumps are be­nign, mean­ing they are treat­able and may just go away.

But early de­tec­tion is key, so if you find a lump, visit a GP im­me­di­ately for an ex­am­i­na­tion just to be sure. If your GP sus­pects the lump is re­lated to hor­monal changes you may be asked to come back for a checkup at the end of your pe­riod.

What else do I need to know about breast can­cer? It is more com­mon in women over the age of 50.

The NHS Breast Screen­ing Pro­gramme in Eng­land pro­vides three-yearly rou­tine breast screen­ing mam­mo­grams to women 50 years and older.

These de­tect around a third of breast can­cers and are es­ti­mated to save 1,300 lives an­nu­ally in the UK. Women at in­creased risk of breast can­cer, for ex­am­ple with a strong fam­ily his­tory, may be el­i­gi­ble for breast screen­ing be­fore turn­ing 50.

If it is de­tected early there is an in­creased chance of the pa­tient re­ceiv­ing breast­con­serv­ing surgery and a bet­ter prog­no­sis of long-term sur­vival.

The ex­act causes of breast can­cer are not fully un­der­stood and it’s im­pos­si­ble to know if it can be pre­vented.

How­ever, there are cer­tain fac­tors known to in­crease the risk of breast can­cer:

Age – be­cause the risk in­creases as women get older Fam­ily his­tory A pre­vi­ous di­ag­no­sis Ex­ces­sive al­co­hol use Al­though you can­not pre­vent can­cer, there are some habits that can fol­low to help re­duce the risk: Main­tain a healthy weight Stay phys­i­cally ac­tive Eat fruit and veg­eta­bles Do not smoke Limit al­co­hol con­sump­tion

VI­TAL: Check yousr­self

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