What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50, but younger women can also get breast cancer. About 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Breast cancer occurs mainly in women, but men can get it, too! Make sure you check yourself regularly.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer is a disease in which the body's cells within the breast start to grow out of control. There are various kinds of breast cancer. The type of breast cancer solely depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer.
A breast is made up of three main parts which include: ducts, lobules and connective tissue. The ducts are the tubes that carry the milk through to the nipple, the lobules are the glands that produce the milk and the connective tissue is what surrounds and holds everything together (connective tissue is made up of fatty and fibrous tissue). The majority of breast cancer tends to begin in the ducts or the lobules.
Like any other type of cancer, breast cancer can unfortunately spread. The disease transmits through the blood vessels and the lymph glands. The term used to describe the spread of breast cancer is metastasized.
What Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer?
The first symptom of breast cancer women tend to detect is a lump or area of thickened tissue within the breast - if you notice either of these symptoms, it is imperative that you book in to see your GP for further investigation.
Don't panic! The majority of breast lumps are non-cancerous, but it is always recommended to have them checked out by a doctor.
We have outlined below the other most common symptoms of breast cancer:
A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
Fluid or discharge from either of your nipples
A swelling or lump located in either of your armpits
Dimpling or Puckering on the skin of your breasts
A rash on or around your nipple area
Crusting around the nipple
A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
How Do I Check My Breasts For Lumps And Changes?
Checking your breasts is quick and simple. There is no particular technique that you need to follow and you don’t need special training in order to self-check.
All you need to remember is to check the entire breast area, including the armpits and upper chest region.
Step 1: With the pads of your 3 middle fingers, check both breasts and armpit areas by pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressures. Check both breasts each month feeling for any new lumps, thickening of tissue, hardened knots, and all other breast changes.
Step 2: Check your breasts visually in a mirror. To carry out this step, face the mirror with your hands by your sides and look for any changes in your breast shape, colour and contour. Repeat this step with your hands on your hips and again with your hands in the air.
We have provided a visual representation of the above steps for better guidance on self-examination techniques below:
What Are The Risk Factors Of Breast Cancer?
It has been proven that the risk factors of getting breast cancer is due to a mixture of various factors. The primary factor that influences the risk, is being a woman and the natural progression of aging. Most breast cancers are confirmed in women who are 50 or older.
Alongside this factor, there are a few other factors that cannot be changed which should be considered including the below:
Genetics - Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at a higher risk of getting ovarian and breast cancer.
Reproductive history - Early menstrual periods before the age of 12 and starting menopause after the age 55 exposes women to hormones longer, meaning that their risk of getting breast cancer is increased.
Having dense breasts - Having dense breasts means that you have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which sometimes makes it hard to detect the tumours on a mammogram. Women who have dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.
Family history of breast or ovarian cancer - A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast or ovarian cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
There are a few risk factors in which can be managed to reduce the risk of breast cancer which include the following:
Not being physically active - Women who do not exercise are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
Being overweight or obese after menopause - Older women who are overweight have a higher risk of those the same age and a normal weight.
Reproductive history - Having a first pregnancy after the age of 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise a woman's risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol Consumption - Studies have shown that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases the more alcohol she consumes
Early detection saves lives so it’s important to remember to check carry out self-examinations monthly and keep on top of the risk factors you can control to reduce your chances of getting breast cancer.