Most of us know someone who has had breast cancer. It is by far the most common cancer in women, with one woman in eight developing the disease. The vast majority - some 80% - will be over 50. More positively, you may well know someone who has been successfully treated for the disease. One of the keys is early detection so understanding the signs of breast cancer is vital. It’s therefore important to know what to look for and make a regular check part of your routine. It really could save your life.
What Are the Signs of Breast Cancer?
Being ‘breast aware’ doesn’t mean obsessively checking your breasts every day or even week. But once a month or so take the opportunity in the bath or shower to run a soapy hand over each breast and up under each arm.
Common signs of breast cancer include:
- A lump or thickening in an area of the breast
- A change in the size or shape
- Dimpling of the skin
- A change in the shape of your nipple, particularly if it turns in, sinks into the breast, or has an irregular shape
- A blood stained discharge from the nipple
A swelling or lump in your armpit
Do remember that your breasts may change during your cycle. If you find that certain lumpiness comes and goes with your periods this is normal and nothing to worry about. But any new or persistent changes should be checked out by your GP straight away as they could be signs of breast cancer.
What are the Causes and Risks of Breast Cancer?
Are you at a higher risk than normal from breast cancer? Although not signs of breast cancer, factors such as your age, genetic history and other lifestyle choices can all have an impact on your chances of developing breast cancer.
Like most cancers, age is a factor. As we get older, the cells in our bodies have more chance to go wrong when they’re dividing.
Family history can also increase your risk. Having a mother or sister diagnosed with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman’s risk - and yet eight out ten women who have a close relative with breast cancer will never develop it themselves. Some women have particular inherited genes (BRCA1 and 2) which carry a 50-80% chance of developing breast cancer. If you’re concerned, you can seek a genetic test, and this is a service that we offer at certain BMI hospitals.
How to lower your risk
There are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Alcohol can increase your risk by between 7-12%, and there is some evidence that women who start smoking before the age of 20 may have a higher risk as well. However, even if you have a low risk you should still monitor for the signs of breast cancer on a regular basis.
Don't forget to download your free clinically approved Breast Cancer Awareness guide from BMI Healthcare, containing information on how to check yourself, the risk factors, the protective factors plus much more...
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