How to be 'Breast Aware' this October

How to be 'Breast Aware' this OctoberTuesday 4 October 2016

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and so Breast Care Nurse Specialist, Teresa Dearson, at Springfield Hospital takes the opportunity to explain how to be breast aware.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in the UK with 1 in 8 people being diagnosed but both men and women can be affected by it. We don´t yet fully understand the causes of breast cancer but there are a number of risk factors that are known to increase a person’s chance of developing the disease:

* Age
* Family history
* Certain breast conditions
* Exposure to the hormone oestrogen
* Lifestyle factors such as being overweight and drinking alcohol over recommended limits.

Being breast aware

Being breast aware means getting to know how your breasts look and feel so you know what is normal for you.

Check your breasts by looking and feeling. Do this regularly throughout your life. There’s no set time when to look and feel. You can do this in the bath or shower, when you use body lotion, or when you get dressed.

There’s no specific way to check. Look at your breasts and feel them with your hand and fingers. Check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone. A mirror can help you look at the parts you can’t see easily. You may find body lotion or a soapy hand helps when you’re feeling your breasts.

Checking your breasts

Try to be aware of any changes that are different for you including:

* A lump or area of thickened breast tissue that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue.
* A change in size - one breast may become noticeably larger or lower.
* A nipple that has become inverted (pulled in) or changed its position or shape.
* A rash on or around the nipple. Discharge from one or both nipples.
* Puckering or dimpling of the skin.
* A swelling under your armpit or around your collarbone.
* Constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it's always best to have them checked by your doctor. After examining your breasts, your GP may refer you to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests. This might include a mammography, an ultrasound and/or a biopsy. Within the NHS this appointment will be within two weeks of when the GP refers you to the clinic. In the private sector it can be within two days and most healthcare insurance companies will fund these appointments.

Breast screening

Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early. It uses an x-ray test called a mammogram that can spot cancers when they are too small to see or feel.

Breast screening is currently offered automatically to women who are registered with a GP and are aged 50-70 years in England. However, the NHS is in the process of extending the programme as a trial, offering screening to some women aged 47-73 years.

Breast screening cannot prevent cancer and it’s possible for a cancer to develop in between each routine screening mammogram. This is called an interval cancer. When this happens the doctors will look at your previous mammograms to see if there was a change which may have been a cancer that was too small to notice at the time, or if this is a new finding. They will discuss the results with you. That’s why it’s important to continue to be breast aware and report any changes to your GP even if you’ve had a mammogram recently.

If you are not eligible for the NHS screening programme but are over 40 years old, you can self-refer to pay for a mammogram at Springfield Hospital. You may also choose to supplement your NHS screenings with a private mammogram in between times.

Please remember

More people are surviving breast cancer than ever before, thanks to earlier detection and better treatments. So please be ‘BREAST AWARE’ not just for October but all of the year!

Springfield Hospital uses advanced digital mammography to offer breast screening for women over 40 years. Find out more....

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