Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK, with one in eight women diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. But treatments can be very effective if the symptoms are caught early, which is why Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so important - to improve knowledge of the early signs and symptoms of the disease, and to help save lives.
What is breast cancer?
There are two main types of breast cancer - non-invasive, which is found in the ducts of the breast, and invasive, which develops in the cells that line the breast ducts. The three main risk factors of breast cancer are being a woman (over 99 per cent of new cases of breast cancer are in women), getting older (more than 80 per cent of breast cancers occur in women over 50) and having a family history of the disease. Around five per cent of people diagnosed with breast cancer have inherited a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
According to Breast Cancer Care, signs and symptoms of breast cancer can include the following:
- a change in size or shape
- a lump or area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast
- a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like the skin of an orange)
- redness or rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
- your nipple has become pulled in or looks different, for example changed its position or shape
- liquid that comes from the nipple without squeezing
- pain in your breast or your armpit that’s there all or almost all of the time
- a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
If you notice any of the signs or symptoms above, it is important to visit your GP as soon as possible, who may refer you to a breast clinic. Here you will usually have a breast examination followed by one or more tests, such as a mammogram, ultrasound scan, core biopsy or fine needle aspiration. Results from these tests will determine whether or not you have breast cancer.
What are the treatments for breast cancer?
Treatments for breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Hormone or biological treatments are also used in some cases. Treatments can be very effective and almost nine in ten women survive breast cancer for five years or more.
For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk. It is important to see your GP for professional medical advice.
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