Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness and highlighting the importance of regularly checking breasts and the surrounding areas. While both women and men can get breast cancer, it is much more common for women to be diagnosed, so it is vital that all of us are regularly checking for changes.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
Pain within the breast is not usually a common sign of breast cancer. However, if you have consistent pain in the chest and armpit area this may be a sign. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Changes in the size or shape of the breast area
- Lumps or swelling around the breast, armpit or upper chest region – regular checking is recommended
- A change to the skin texture, e.g. if it becomes dimpled or puckered
- Changes in the skin colour, e.g. the breast area becoming red or inflamed
- Changes to the nipples, e.g. becoming inverted or pulled in
- A rash on the breast or crusting around the nipple area
- Nipple discharge or unusual liquid leakage from the nipple
For men the most common symptom is unusual lumps around the chest area.
Our specialists advise patients to ‘know their own breasts’ and to slow down when washing or applying body lotion so that they become more familiar with their body and are more likely to notice any changes that occur.
What to do if I experience any symptoms?
If you experience any of the symptoms above, or encounter any changes to your breast area, contact a GP. Any changes can be checked, and the sooner breast cancer is found, the more likely it is that any treatment will be successful.
‘Doctors would rather see ninety-nine benign breast lumps than miss the one malignant one.’ – Dr Justine Setchell, GP at London W1.
How to reduce the risk of breast cancer
Although breast cancer can unfortunately affect anyone, it is more common if risk factors are present. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying a healthy weight will reduce the risk of breast cancer. Staying healthy can prevent thousands of cases of cancer yearly. Being overweight is not a direct cause of cancer, but it can introduce other factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
Giving up smoking will also significantly reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Our bodies are not designed to deal with the amount of harmful chemicals produced in tobacco smoke, and the more cigarettes smoked per day correlate to an enhanced risk of cancer, so a great first step towards quitting is reducing the amount of cigarettes you smoke daily. Reducing consumption of alcohol will also help to minimise the risk. If you choose to drink, it is advised that you do so in moderation.
To speak to a GP call us on 0207 079 2100 or email [email protected].