01 October 2017
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 the signs to look out for can help increase early diagnosis of breast cancer.
“Unsurprisingly, the main risk is being a woman, with over 99% of new cases found in women,” says Mr Avi Agrawal, a Consultant Breast Surgeon at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.
“The second biggest risk is getting older - more than 80% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50, and 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.”
But Mr. Agrawal stressed that lifestyle measures, 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 figures on the rise.
Figures from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) show that around 8 out of 10 women in England survive their disease for ten years or more, compared with 4 out of 10 back in the 1970s. Survival figures for five years or more are even higher at 87%.
“Without any doubt early detection leads to better treatment results. That means we need to ensure that every woman knows how to be breast aware and what to do if she thinks something is wrong.
“It is important to get an early appointment with a GP or a breast specialist if you find something wrong with your breasts. The patient can then receive informed advice and if necessary, be placed on an early treatment pathway,” said Mr Agrawal.
Although finding a lump in your breast does not always signify breast cancer, it is important that women ‘get to know’ their breasts so they can detect changes.
“Many women will experience lumpy breasts just before their period; often this disappears after the period but if it doesn’t , I would encourage all women to get it checked out,” said Mr Agrawal.
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 Avi Agrawal is a Consultant Breast Surgeon practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.
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 health care professional.