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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

01 October 2017

Self-checks are still the most powerful weapon in the battle against breast cancer. 

There are three main risk factors when it comes to developing breast cancer - unfortunately there is very little you can actually do about any of them!

However, regular self-checks and an awareness of what to look out for can help keep the number of successful breast cancer treatments on the rise, said Mr Mo Salhab, Consultant Oncoplastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Breast Surgeon at Spire Elland Hospital.

“The main risk is, unsurprisingly, being a woman,” he explained. “Over 99% of new cases of breast cancer are in women and there isn’t much you can do about that!

“The second biggest risk is ageing - more than 80% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. The third is significant family history – although this isn’t as common as some may think, with around 5% of people diagnosed with breast cancer having inherited a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene."

Mr Salhab has stressed that regular checks and early action are still the biggest weapons in a woman’s armoury when it comes to beating the disease and help keep treatment success on the rise.

Figures from Cancer Research UK show that around 8 out of 10 women in England survive the disease for ten years or more, compared with 4 out of 10 back in the 1970s. Figures for surviving for five years or more are even higher at almost nine out of ten – 87%.

“Without any doubt early detection leads to better treatment results. That means we need to ensure that every woman knows how to carry out effective self-check procedures and, just as importantly, what to do if she thinks something is wrong."

“It is important to get an early appointment with a GP to discuss the matter and receive informed advice and, if necessary, be placed on the correct pathway for treatment,” said Mr Salhab.

Although finding a lump in your breast does not always signify breast cancer it is important that women ‘got to know’ their breasts so they could spot changes. Many women will experience lumpy breasts just before their period; often this disappears after the period. However, it is important to keep checking and if the lump doesn’t go away then get it checked out by your GP,” said Mr Salhab.

Despite increasing survival rates CRUK says that about 60,000 people in the UK are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer every year, resulting in around 12,000 deaths.

Possible symptoms that can be found by self-examination:

  • Painless lumps in the breast
  • Changes in the size or shape of a breast
  • Dimpling to the skin of the breast
  • Thickened breast tissue
  • Nipple inversion
  • Lump or thickening behind the nipple
  • Rash affecting the nipple
  • Blood-stained discharge from the nipple
  • Swelling or a new lump in the armpit
  • Clear nipple discharge coming from one side.

Mr Mo Salhab is a Consultant Oncoplastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Breast Surgeon practising at Spire Elland Hospital in Elland. He is also the breast surgery specialty lead Surgeon at Bradford Teaching Hospitals.

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other healthcare professionals.

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