Breast cancer is currently the most common cancer in the UK, with around 55,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer each year. A very small percentage of these are men.
There are several types of breast cancer and it is often diagnosed at different stages and can develop at different rates. It is advisable to check your breasts on a regular basis (monthly) as the symptoms of breast cancer are generally related to a change in your breast and early detection means better survival rates.
Often the first sign is a lump or an area of thickened tissue in your breast and more than 80% of breast cancers are discovered this way (however, about 90% of breast lumps are non-cancerous). Other signs or symptoms might include changes to the size or shape of your breast or nipple, dimpling or a rash on the skin of your breast. Some women also experience discharge from their nipples or a lump or pain in their armpits.
There are known links between lifestyle behaviours and your risk of breast cancer, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, weight and physical activity. However, the biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer are age (8 out of 10 cases of breast cancer occur in women over 50) and being female.
Other risk factors are your family genetics (most cancers are not hereditary, however, there are certain genes that increase your likelihood of developing breast cancer), lack of childbearing and breastfeeding (both of which decrease the risk) and other factors such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Reducing your risk of breast cancer:
• Check your breasts for changes regularly and know what is normal for you and report any changes to your GP as soon as possible
• Avoid a high-fat diet
• Participate in regular physical activity
• Limit alcohol intake to the recommended limits and avoid smoking
• If you are over the age of 50, ask your GP about breast cancer screening
Further reading is available at www.cancerresearchuk.org or www.breastcancercare.org.uk