Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK. Just because you are older and maybe having Home Care or are in a Care Home it is never too late to be checking for the signs of breast cancer.
Here are facts from Cancer Research UK:
- In 2007 in the UK almost 45,700 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, that is around 125 women a day.
- 277 men in the UK were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.
- Female breast cancer incidence rates have increased by around 50% over the last twenty-five years.
- In the last ten years, female breast cancer incidence rates in the UK have increased by 5%.
- Important to note for older people is that 8 in 10 breast cancers are diagnosed in women aged 50 and over.
- In the UK in 2007/2008 the NHS breast screening programme detected more than 16,000 cases of breast cancer.
- It is estimated that the NHS breast screening programme saves over 1,000 lives each year.
As with all cancers early detection is paramount in ensuring the best chance of survival from breast cancer. More women are surviving breast cancer than ever before; in the 1970s around 5 out of 10 women survived the disease beyond five years this is now increased to 8 out of 10 and in fact now more than three-quarters of women survive at least 10 years or more.
Modern medicine has brought cancer treatment forward in leaps and bounds with better detection, therapy, research, drugs and symptom management. As an individual you are in the best place to manage the monitoring of your breast because early detection is the best way to be cured.
How do you I check my breasts?
There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts and you should never feel embarrassed in anyway about looking after your own health. Try to get used to looking at and feeling your breasts regularly. You can do this in the bath or shower, when you use body lotion, or when you get dressed. There’s really no need to change your everyday routine. Just decide what you are comfortable with and what suits you best.
Remember to check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone.
The breast awareness 5-point code
1. Know what is normal for you, you know your own body best.
2. Know what changes to look and feel for (see list below).
3. Look and feel on a regular basis.
4. Report any changes to your GP without delay, better to be safe than sorry.
5. Attend routine breast screening if you are aged 50 or over, obtain advice from your GP on the regularity of this. You should insist on more screening if you are at higher risk, see later on what causes breast cancer.
What changes to look and feel for
- A change in size or shape of the breast.
- A change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like the skin of an orange).
- A lump or thickening that feels different to the rest of the tissue in your breast.
- Redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple.
- If your nipple becomes inverted (pulled in) or changes its shape or position.
- A swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.
- Discharge (liquid) from one or both of your nipples.
- Constant pain in your breast or armpit.
Sometimes your GP may ask you to come for a check outside of your menstrual cycle to rule out any hormonal changes.
Causes of Breast Cancer
- Women with a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer have almost double the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer themselves.
- Risk increases with the number of first-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer, but even so, eight of nine breast cancers occur in women without a family history of breast cancer.
- Obesity increases risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by up to 30%.
- Women currently using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have a 66% increased risk of breast cancer.
- The risk of breast cancer in current users of oral contraceptives is increased by around a quarter.
- Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer – as little as one alcoholic drink per day increases breast cancer risk by around 12%.
- A more active lifestyle reduces breast cancer risk.
As with all things to do with cancer living a healthy lifestyle will always reduce your risks and being aware of changes in your own body will give a greater chance of an early life saving diagnosis.