October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with more than 50,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, it is becoming increasingly important that people know the signs and what to look for. With over 100 women on average being diagnosed daily in the UK, the significance of knowing how your breasts look and feel will increase your chances of being able to detect if something is wrong.
Changes in look, shape and feel can all be indicators of breast cancer – but don’t jump to conclusions! UK Healthcare would like to help you look out for tell-tale signs, as well as improve your overall health in order to lessen your chances of developing breast cancer.
What should I look out for?
- Any new lumps in your breast or armpit, whether they or painful or not – this can also include bumpy areas which feel slightly strange.
- A difference in the shape or outline of the breast, particularly when you lift or move your arm.
- Any changes in the look or feel of the skin on your breast, such as wrinkles and dimples that stand out from the rest of the breast.
- Bleeding or discharge leaking from your nipple.
- Any rashes or sores on or around the nipple that don’t heal, or come and go over time.
- A difference in the position of your nipple, such as it looking higher up than usual, or pointing in an unusual direction.
What are the main breast cancer risk factors?
There is no definite answer to what causes breast cancer, as each case is different. No evidence is 100% clear, hence why it is still vitally important to continue to raise awareness of breast cancer research. However, there are certain elements of a person’s lifestyle which can sometimes affect your health in a negative way. For example, more than a quarter of female breast cancers in the UK are related to factors such as obesity and alcohol consumption. Other influences can be oral contraceptives, some types of hormone replacement therapy and ionising radiation. Furthermore, smoking is also a common lifestyle choice in those diagnosed with breast cancer, but there is no definite evidence to say it is a direct cause.
Some basic lifestyle changes to help prevent breast cancer include eating a healthy, balanced diet, regular physical activity, and reducing your alcohol consumption. Furthermore, refraining from smoking may also help – although there is no solid evidence linking smoking with breast cancer, there are numerous other health benefits if you do decide to quit. Breastfeeding your baby for a minimum of six months is also recommended. This is based on the fact that around 3% of female breast cancers in the UK are suspected to be due to insufficient breastfeeding after pregnancy.
If you are worried about breast cancer, make an appointment with your GP. Your doctor will be able to answer any further questions you may have, as well as giving you additional advice about how to check your breasts regularly. Many women have nodular, lumpy breasts – this is breast tissue and is completely normal. Some women many also have inverted nipples, or one breast larger than the other – again, this is not uncommon. However, if your breasts change in any way, that is when it is time to visit your GP.