October is breast cancer awareness month, an annual event created to raise awareness of breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in the UK. The campaign takes place annually worldwide and involves thousands of organisations to highlight the importance of breast cancer awareness, education, and research.
According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 55,176 new cases of breast cancer and 11,399 people die of breast cancer every year in the UK. As the most common cancer in the UK, it accounts for 15% of all new cancer cases each year. 23% of breast cancer cases in the UK are preventable, so as a leading clinic for the care of breast cancer, we want to raise awareness to this disease and teach people the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and how to check yourself, to help reduce the number of people who tragically die from this disease each year.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease which occurs when abnormal cells in the breast grow in an uncontrolled manner. It occurs in both men and women, but women are always at greater risk due to their breast development and lifelong exposure to oestrogens. 1 in 7 women in the UK will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Cells which grow abnormally can form tumours. Breast cancer occurs when breast tumours spread. There is generally a lengthy period between breast tissues changing and the development of breast cancer.
What can cause breast cancer?
The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown. Certain things can increase your chance of developing it. Some of these factors are inherited, and some are incurred throughout your life, and others are present in the environment in which you live. Collectively, these factors are described as ‘risk factors.’
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Age – about 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50
- Having had breast cancer before
- Having a breast condition
- Family history of breast cancer
- Having dense breast tissue
- Taking hormone replacement therapy for more than 5 years, especially if you are taking combined HRT
- Not having had children
- Having your first child after the age of 30
- Starting your periods early (under the age of 12) or having late menopause (after the age of 55)
- Taking the contraceptive pill
- If you have had radiation to the chest before the age of 30
- Lifestyle factors – being overweight or regularly drinking alcohol.
Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will develop breast cancer, and if you don’t have any risk factors this doesn’t mean you won’t develop breast cancer.
Simple changes to your lifestyle can lower your risk of breast cancer. Maintaining a good diet and a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and not drinking excessively can all help to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
Like with most cancers, the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment. So, it is important to check your breasts regularly and visit your GP if you notice any changes.
Common signs of breast cancer include:
- a lump or swelling in the breast, armpit, or upper chest – you may feel a lump but not be able to see it
- a change in the colour of the breast or nipple
- a change to the skin of the breast, such as puckering or dimpling
- changes to the nipple – shape, direction, inversion or flattened or any unusual discharge, a rash, crusted or flaky skin
- a change in size or shape of the breast
- pain in the breast or underarm all or most of the time
If you notice an unusual change in your breast or suffer pain in your breasts, it does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer as most breast changes are not because of cancer. However, if you notice a change you should get checked by your GP just to be safe.
Learn how to check your breasts
It is so important for you to become familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you know what is normal for you at different times of the month. Anyone can check their breasts and it only takes a few minutes. It is important to regularly check your breasts for any abnormalities or changes. When checking your breasts, check the whole breast area including your upper chest and armpits.
Checking your breasts is simple, remember TLC – Touch, Look, Check:
- Touch your breasts to feel for anything unusual
- Look for changes to see if anything looks different – use a mirror and look from all angles
- Check any changes with your GP
Private cancer care for breast cancer
It has been reported that almost one million women in the UK have missed vital breast screening due to the coronavirus after screening programmes were paused in March. Breast Cancer Now calculates that around 8,600 women who have not had a scan have undetected breast cancer.
Although the scanning programme is up and running again, social distancing measures have reduced capacity. This combined with a significant backlog of women waiting for a scan means the service is under intense pressure.
At Clatterbridge Private Clinic we can provide patients with fast access to treatments for breast cancer, with little waiting time. We have expert consultants who specialise in the treatment of breast cancer and we offer some of the most innovative treatments for breast cancer, many of which are not available on the NHS.
All our treatments are tailored to each patient and delivered in our state-of-the-art treatment rooms, in a modern and calming environment. Our staff are all dedicated to providing exceptional cancer care and do everything they can to make your experience as positive and relaxing as possible. If you have breast cancer and would like to be treated at the Clatterbridge Private Clinic, ask your GP or specialist to refer you to us. We are recognised by all major UK insurers and our patient liaison team work directly with insurers to secure pre-authorisation so you do not have to worry about this.