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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Early detection can help save lives

Breast cancer rates are rising with over 5000 women being diagnosed with breast cancer each year. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime and 1 in 5 of these women will be under the age of 50 and even though it is uncommon, men can get breast cancer too with around 350 men being diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, including around 30 in Scotland.

So, the question really is… When was the last time you checked your breasts?

Signs of breast cancer #KnowYourLemons
See the signs of breast cancer to know what you should be looking out for.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

There are a number of symptoms that can indicate breast cancer and these are not just lumps. Below is a diagram that will help you recognise the different symptoms that could indicate breast cancer. If you are displaying any of these symptoms please contact your GP to discuss your concerns, even if you feel they are trivial. If you are unable to see your GP and would like to talk with a female doctor specialising in woman’s health in a discreet, friendly and supportive environment Dr Gail Ball at Bella Vou can see you for a symptom led consultation and breast check examination.

What are the increased risks of contracting breast cancer?

Age

One of the biggest risk factors for contacting breast cancer is increasing age. At least four out of five breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. Women in the the United Kingdom aged 50 and over are entitled to free breast screening (a mammogram). You should get your first appointment between your 50th and 53rd birthdays. You will then receive invitations every three years until you reach 70. If for some reason you do not get an invitation for your breast screening book an appointment to discuss it with your GP.

Genetics

If there is a strong family history of breast cancer within your family, it maybe because you have a faulty gene. There are several gene faults and being a carrier of these genes could increase your chances of developing breast cancer, but it is not a certainty. Most breast cancers happen by chance and only about 3% are due to an inherited cancer gene. If someone in your family has a history of breast cancer, we would recommend you discuss this with your GP. If your general practitioner considers you to be at risk because of your family history, they may recommend you for genetic testing.

You can read more about genetic testing from Cancer Research UK here.

Lifestyle

Women who are overweight after their menopause have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who are not overweight. Men also have an increased risk of breast cancer if they are overweight or obese. Being overweight means having a body mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 30. Obesity means being very overweight with a BMI of 30 or higher.

Smoking and drinking alcohol may increase your chances of contracting breast cancer. It is advised that you give up smoking and follow the government guidelines on the consumption of alcohol levels to decrease your chances.

Try to keep a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

How often should I check my breasts for lumps?

Checking your breasts for lumps
Checking your breasts for lumps should be part of a regular routine.

As often as you can! The more familiar you are with your breasts the more likely you will detect abnormalities quickly. Make it a habit to check them every day whilst in the shower or bath and make it a part of your daily routine. Make a calendar reminder in your phone to give your breasts a more thorough check every 2-4 weeks. The earlier the cancer is detected the better chances of treating it successfully you will have.

Breast Implants & Breast Cancer

If you are considering Breast Augmentation surgery but you’re concerned about breast cancer, you can discuss this in depth with your surgeon at your consultation. Our plastic surgeons have vast knowledge of the condition due to working with breast cancer survivors and performing reconstruction surgeries post cancer treatment. They will be able to answer any questions you may have and also give you advice on how to check your breasts correctly.

There is no link to indicate that having breast implants will increase your chances of contracting breast cancer.

How do I check my breasts for lumps if I have breast implants?

Step-by-step guide to a breast self-exam
Click to read a step-by-step guide to a breast self-exam.

Some women have voiced their concerns that they may not be able to detect lumps if they have implants, but medical literature suggests that it may be easier to detect them because depending on where the implants are placed (over or under the muscle) the lumps could be pushed further away from the body making them easier to feel. If you have any concerns, we strongly advise you contact your GP.

Can I have a mammogram with Breast Implants?

Yes, and we would highly recommend that you phone ahead and inform the clinic performing the screen that you have implants as a specialist may be required to perform the scan as they may need to do additional views due to obstruction of view from the implant.

If you have any concerns or observe any changes within your breasts, please contact your GP to discuss your concerns immediately, no matter how trivial they may seem. If you are unable to see your GP and would like to talk with a female doctor specialising in woman’s health in a discreet, friendly and supportive environment Dr Gail Ball at Bella Vou can see you for a symptom led consultation and breast check examination.

The quicker the disease is detected the greater the chance of survival. Help to raise awareness with friends and family and remind them to check their breast regularly. Don’t forget that breast cancer also effects men, so remind the men in your life to check theirs too.

Medically reviewed by

Amir Nakhdjevan Profile

Amir Nakhdjevani

Last Updated: October 10, 2017

Published On: October 10, 2017

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