Expert / 8 June, 2023 / Christina Walter
NHS GP Doctor Dr Raj Arora shares the low-down on symptoms of breast cancer, what to look out for and when to get help.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breasts. It occurs when the cells in the breast divide abnormally and create a mass. If left untreated, these cells can continue to grow and spread to other parts of the body.
Around 55,000 women and 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually in the UK – equivalent to a diagnosis every 10 minutes.
Around 11,500 women and 85 men die annually from breast cancer in the UK. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK; a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 8.
Breast cancer survival is improving due to a combination of improvements in treatments and care. Early detection is key and can take place through screening and raising awareness on self-assessment.
The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment. Therefore, it is important to check your breasts and to be able to identify what is normal for you versus what is abnormal. If in doubt – always see your GP!
Common breast cancer signs and symptoms include:
How to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer:
These lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. However, there are some fixed risk factors that can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. These include:
Healthy breasts come in all shapes, sizes and densities. It is important to know what is “normal” for you so that if anything changes you can easily pick these changes up early. I would recommend checking your breasts/chest regularly. Try to do it at least monthly at the same time each month. Try to avoid checking around your period as there may be breast tenderness and cyclical changes. Try to build your “self-check” into your routine – eg. in the shower – to prevent yourself from forgetting to check! There is no right or wrong way of checking your breasts, but the steps below may help guide you.
Steps to checking your breasts:
Many symptoms can be concerning, but it is important to remember that not all lumps in the breast are cancerous. 9 out of 10 breast lumps are harmless. We call these “Benign lumps” in the breast. Other causes of breast pain can include menstruation (cyclical pain), pregnancy, and skin infections.
Any new changes should be reported but the “red flag” signs below should not be ignored:
If you have any of the above symptoms, seeing your GP for a full assessment is very important.
Article by Dr Raj Arora