One person is diagnosed with breast cancer every 10 minutes in the UK.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. It is mainly diagnosed in women over 50 years, but younger women and even men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s estimated that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
There is a good chance of full recovery if breast cancer is detected early. Therefore, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Women aged between 50 and 70 years are also invited to the NHS breast screening programme every three years and it’s important to attend these screenings as it may help to detect breast cancer in the early stages and prevent disease progression.
So, what are the common symptoms?
The most common symptom is often a lump on the breast. Most lumps aren’t cancerous but if you spot anything unusual it’s important to get them checked by your doctor.
Other symptoms can include:
- Change in shape or size of one or both breasts
- Discharge from the nipples
- Lump or swelling in the armpit
- Dimpling on the skin of the breasts
- Rash around the nipple
- Change in appearance of the nipple
If you notice any of these symptoms you should speak to your GP. Pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.
What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, but there are factors that may increase your risk of developing it.
Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. Breast cancer occurs most commonly in women aged over 50 years.
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you may also carry the breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2), which increase your risk for developing breast cancer.
- Previous breast cancer or lump.
If you have had breast cancer before, you are at higher risk of developing it again.
Some medicines are associated with increased risk of breast cancer, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used for menopause and the contraceptive pill.
- Lifestyle factors
Lifestyle factors can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, including alcohol consumption and being overweight or obese.
What measures can you take to reduce your risk of breast cancer?
Check your breasts!
There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts, but it’s important to know how your breasts usually look and feel so you can spot any changes quickly. Regularly self-examining your breastsin combination with attending NHS breast screening programmescan help with early detection of breast cancer.
Aim for a healthy lifestyle
Some women are at higher risk of breast cancer than others and it’s not known if it can be prevented altogether. But making changes to your lifestyle may help to reduce your risk of breast cancer, as well as keeping you fit and healthy! Maintain a healthy body weight and exercise regularly. Reducing saturated fat intake and reducing alcohol consumption may also help.
Seek advice from your GP
Treatment (including surgery) is also available for women who are at increased risk of breast cancer – if you are concerned that you may be at increased risk you should speak to a GP who can advise you and refer you on to a specialist if appropriate.
For more information, advice and support on breast cancer, check out the following websites:
If you are concerned about breast cancer, or you or a loved one have been affected by breast cancer, our GPs are at hand to give you advice and support. Available 24/7 our GPs are available for telephone, video and home visiting consultations. ZoomDoc GPs are here for you. Download our app for instant GP access.